Southern Miss to reduce budget by $8 million, eliminate 20 staff - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Southern Miss to reduce budget by $8 million, eliminate 20 staff positions

Southern Miss campus/Photo source: WDAM Southern Miss campus/Photo source: WDAM
HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

The University of Southern Mississippi announced Thursday that it must permanently reduce the budget by approximately $8 million and eliminate 20 current staff employee positions.

University President Dr. Rodney Bennett made the announcement in an email sent out to all faculty and staff. Bennett attributed the decision to decreases in state funding, particularly over the past 18 months, and a recent Board Policy adopted by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees that outlines financial expectations of institutions. 

The $8 million reduction in funds will begin in the current fiscal year, and the 20 staff positions will be eliminated on Dec. 31, 2017. In addition, other visiting or temporary employees' positions will be eliminated after their current scheduled end dates. 

The IHL policy, Board Policy 713: Institutional Financial Sustainability, requires that Mississippi institutions to address financial reserves, liquidity and coverage of annual debt payments. According to Bennett, the reduction in budget will allow USM to address the recent decrease in state funds, increase the school's financial reserves, begin addressing new requirements of Board Policy 713 and plan ahead for another possible 2 percent reduction in state appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year. 

In the email Bennett wrote:

We continue to work hard to increase enrollment, and I am hopeful that state funding to public higher education will be restored. As these things come to fruition, we will be able to invest new resources into strategic areas of growth as determined by the University's Strategic Plan, the Academic Master Plan and current institutional priorities stemming from those bodies of work. Our ability to continue evaluating academic programs as we make strategic investments with limited resources will determine our long-term success, not only with regard to financial stability, but also with regard to meeting the education and research needs of our state.

We have found ourselves on both ends of a spectrum. As an institution, we have positive momentum in many areas of the enterprise -- and I am excited about that way forward. But on the other end of the spectrum, we must address these budgetary shortfalls, and that is never easy to do. From my perspective, public higher education is transitioning in ways that many of us have never seen before, and at every turn, there are uncertainties that make it difficult to predict the future. As such, I cannot say to the University community that we will not be asked to do more or to do things differently; I am sharing the information I know today. We must remain committed to The University of Southern Mississippi; work hard at the recruitment of new students and the retention, progression and graduation of current students; be mindful of all of our expenditures; think about ways that we can be entrepreneurial; and think about ways that we can generate private giving to the University.

For more than 107 years, The University of Southern Mississippi has been faced with obstacles and challenges, and through each of those, we have persevered; we have found a way to come together; and we have continued to improve our reputation and status as a major research university. I am confident that even with this new set of challenges, our resolve as an institution will be unchanged, and we will harness the grit that fuels each of us to continue moving forward. I want you to know how much I appreciate each of you and how grateful I am for your hard work and dedication to this institution and to our students.

For a summary of recent appropriation reductions to Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning:

You can view the full Board Policy 713: Institutional Financial Sustainability:

Copyright WDAM 2017. All rights reserved. 

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