October 16, 2009
This year's budget
We have completed a modified operating budget for the current fiscal year to reflect an expenditure of 95 percent of the funds originally budgeted.
Spending at that level will offset the 5 percent cut in state support already imposed on this year's budget and help us conserve funds from self-generated sources to better deal with further declines in state support.
The financial straits confronting higher education once again dominated this week's meeting of the Board of Trustees. Commissioner Hank Bounds has directed state universities to begin planning for an additional 3 percent reduction in the current year's budget, which becomes increasingly likely as state tax revenues continue to fall far below projected collections.
So far, administrative and academic units, including the separately budgeted areas such as MAFES and MSU Extension, have identified about $10.5 million in reductions in this year's $344 million operating budget.
The current version of the revised plan for this year eliminates 121 positions from our general funds budgets. Most of those positions are vacant; others will be transferred to non E&G funding sources, such as university self-generated funds or externally funded contracts. Some student worker and graduate assistant positions also will be eliminated.
These cuts were structured insofar as possible to protect the quality of our core functions of teaching, research and service while minimizing the impact on employees.
Cuts totaled 5 percent in the divisions of Finance and Administration, Student Affairs, Development and Alumni, and Research, while cuts in Academic Affairs averaged approximately 3.65 percent, with some variations among colleges and academic support units. Reductions in the separately budgeted units of the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine totaled 5 percent of state appropriated funds.
The next two years and beyond
Our financial outlook for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 is for still more reductions in state support.
Commissioner Bounds estimates that our state funding for FY 2011, which begins next July, could be 13 percent below our original FY 10 budget. State support for FY 2012 could be 23 percent below the FY 10 starting point. These reductions do not account for higher costs associated with inflation.
The expected declines in future funding are due to lagging state tax collections and the planned phase-out of federal economic stimulus funds, which are helping to prop up this year's budget.
Board members have made it very clear that they expect all of our state universities to make a maximum effort to reduce costs wherever possible. Mergers, consolidations or eliminations of academic programs are likely on all campuses over the next two years.
As we turn our attention to the difficult task of matching our programs to our resources for the next two years and beyond, we are forming a broad-based Select Committee on Efficiencies and Innovations to help guide that process. The Faculty Senate is conducting an election to select 10 committee members, including one from each academic college, the library, and the Meridian Campus.
I have also asked Senate President Hart Bailey and Vice President Meghan Millea to serve on the committee, along with other faculty members, administrators, student, and staff representatives to be appointed. The election of faculty representatives should be complete by October 20 and the full committee will be named and get to work soon after. The recommendations of that group likely will be needed during the early part of the spring semester.
On a system-wide level, efforts already are under way to consolidate some administrative functions and also to search out savings in areas such as energy conservation. Campus financial officers and IHL staff members presented preliminary recommendations in those areas at the October Board of Trustees meeting.
The months ahead will demand hard decisions and shared sacrifice. I appreciate very much the evident readiness of our faculty and staff to help work through this difficult period with the best interests of the university as a whole at heart.
New support for faculty, students, and the library
In conjunction with this week's presidential investiture, we are announcing a new program called StatePride. Our goal will be to raise $100 million over a four-year period for scholarships and to support faculty development and retention.
A unique partnership between the MSU Foundation and the MSU Athletic Department will take the leadership role in this effort.
The Foundation will solicit gifts for endowed professorships, chairs, and fellowships, as well as faculty awards that recognize and reward outstanding performance.
We will also create more endowed and annual scholarships that help attract to Mississippi State the most academically talented students. Other scholarships will help us recruit good students who have leadership potential. And, very importantly, we will expand our need-based MSU Promise Award program to ensure access by students from families of limited means.
The MSU Athletic Department will provide $750,000 a year over the next 15 years to match private gifts for scholarships, faculty support, and the library on an annual basis. That collaboration will generate about $1.5 million a year in immediately spendable funds that can have an impact right away, in addition to the perpetual income that will be produced by new endowments.
Over the 15 years of this initial agreement, the Athletic Department will provide more than $11 million to be matched by private contributions.
Mission and vision statements
Proposed new vision and mission statements for the university were approved by the Board of Trustees at its October meeting this week. I appreciate the efforts of the ad hoc committee that worked with me to develop a draft of the statements and reviewed the numerous comments received from faculty, staff and students. The mission statement submitted for Board approval reflects refinements based on campus feedback, and I am grateful to all of those who made thoughtful suggestions.
Committee members were Dr. Hart Bailey, Dr. Tim Chamblee, Dr. Keith Coble, Dr. Jerry Gilbert, Dr. Meghan Millea, Mr. Thomas Sellers, Ms. Mary Vaughn, and Dr. Robert West. Here are the new vision and mission statements:
Mississippi State University will be a leading public research university that is globally aware and involved, accessible and responsive to the many constituencies it serves, and fully integrated with the intellectual, social, and economic development of the state, while delivering excellent programs of teaching, research, and service.
Mississippi State University is a public, land-grant university whose mission is to provide access and opportunity to students from all sectors of the state's diverse population, as well as from other states and countries, and to offer excellent programs of teaching, research, and service.
Enhancing its historic strengths in agriculture, natural resources, engineering, mathematics, and natural and physical sciences, Mississippi State offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs; these include architecture, the fine arts, business, education, the humanities, the social and behavioral sciences, and veterinary medicine.
The university embraces its role as a major contributor to the economic development of the state through targeted research and the transfer of ideas and technology to the public, supported by faculty and staff relationships with industry, community organizations, and government entities.
Building on its land-grant tradition, Mississippi State strategically extends its resources and expertise throughout the entire state for the benefit of Mississippi's citizens, offering access for working and place-bound adult learners through its Meridian Campus, Extension, and distance learning programs.
Mississippi State is committed to its tradition of instilling among its students and alumni ideals of diversity, citizenship, leadership, and service.
I am deeply grateful to the many faculty, staff, students and friends of the university who participated in today's investiture ceremony, which was an occasion to celebrate the enduring strength and contributions of Mississippi State University.
It is a high honor to serve as the 19th president of my alma mater and to work alongside the dedicated and talented people who make up this institution. We have challenging days ahead, but I know that together we will overcome any obstacles to ensure the continued quality of our academic programs and maintain our role of leadership in the state.
In fact, when I consider the great reservoir of expertise, energy and innovation that resides within our university community, my optimism soars, and I am filled with confidence that Mississippi State will attain new levels of academic excellence while helping usher Mississippi into a new era of prosperity.
Mark E. Keenum, President