Southern Miss top dogs are cautiously optimistic about 2012

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - University of Southern Mississippi faculty and staff were met with some uplifting news about the 2012 budget year.

The University,  like many other's across the state have endured some tough times over previous budget years, but as one Administrator said today, things seem to be shaping up.

"We are very pleased that  our state appropriations have only decreased by one percent," said Vice President of Student Affairs Russ Willis. "This time last year we were facing a much, much greater decrease. So, this is very good news for us."

Southern Miss Officials are jumping into the 2012 budget year on July 1, with a positive but cautious outlook.

Willis said another highlight for 2012 is the eight percent increase in tuition costs. Especially since the University expects some enrollment growth next year.

"Enrollment growth, retention, the amount of interest the students have in the University. All of that has increased dramatically and we are really, really pleased about that," said Willis.

Willis met with staff and faculty Tuesday to share just how much funding the University will enter the new budget year with, and where it all will go.

"The majority of our dollars are spent through our salaries, about 72 percent of our budget. The second biggest component is contractual services, which is 21 percent. The others are all about one to two percent. Travel is about one percent, commodities about two percent."

Those percentages make up the schools ENG and Auxiliary budgets, which collectively adds up to about $245 million dollars.

For quite some time Southern Miss has been researching a new technique called Responsibility Centered Management to budget it's funding. Something Willis said, "ten percent of schools across the nation all ready use."

"Currently we use something called incremental budgeting. Basically the department gets the same funding they got before, maybe a little increase or a little decrease. RCM Is a completely different way of thinking. It allows a college to keep it's revenue but it has to pay it's own expenses. Those expenses are not handled centrally they are handled at the college level."

So far the idea has received mixed reviews by faculty and staff.

"There are people who don't think that is the best model. They think it encourages too much competition between the colleges. Some believe that they will be charged too much for University services."

Willis said there are no immediate plans to switch to the RCM budget model. The University will continue to research the best route to take over the next six months.

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