April 29, 2010
Dear Faculty and Staff,
As another academic year comes to a close, I want to thank you for all of the hard work and the commitment to quality that is so evident among the people of Mississippi State. Because of your efforts, we have had a good year marked by significant accomplishments and we have every reason to be optimistic about the future, despite the ongoing financial challenges.
Enrollment was at a record high as classes began in August and all indications point to another substantial increase this fall. We will ensure that we have sufficient faculty and staff in place to meet their classroom and other needs. Demand for a Mississippi State education is high, thanks to the quality of our programs and our university's traditional focus on helping students succeed. Forbes magazine ranked MSU 18th this year among colleges and universities where students "get the most quality for each tuition dollar spent." Our graduation rate now exceeds 61 percent.
The debut of our Maroon Edition first-year reading experience was a great success. Along with reading "A Painted House" by MSU alum John Grisham, hundreds of students, faculty, and staff chipped in to help build a Habitat for Humanity home in our community. Our freshmen will be reading "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson as the 2010 Maroon Edition book. For the second year in a row, our students earned a place on the national President's Higher Education Honor Roll, recognizing volunteerism and service learning.
Faculty productivity has led to a significant increase in external support for research and development. Grants and contracts for the first nine months of the current fiscal year surpassed $144 million, which is 18 percent ahead of last year's pace.
Alumni and friends continue to invest in helping MSU carry out its mission, despite the faltering economy. Fund raising for the first nine months of this fiscal year totals more than $46 million, up from the same time last year by one-third. We have added 14 new endowed scholarships and 79 new annual scholarships so far this year, and one new endowed faculty chair. The StatePride campaign to support scholarships and faculty development is off to a great start, with $34.5 million raised. The first StatePride Faculty Awards will be made this fall.
We are also benefiting from outstanding leadership by new administrators in key positions. Dr. Greg Bohach joined us last fall as Vice President for Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine. Dr. David Shaw became Vice President for Research and Economic Development in January. And Dr. Jerry Gilbert recently assumed the role of Provost and Executive Vice President. All three bring vision and energy to their roles.
We also hope to have a new Athletic Director identified very soon who will help maintain the momentum of our intercollegiate athletics programs.
I appreciate the many suggestions that were offered during the self examination we carried out this year with the help of the Select Committee on Efficiencies and Innovations (SCEI), and the hundreds of comments on the committee's recommendations. We are well on the way to putting in place a plan for the next two fiscal years that will protect the quality of our teaching, research and service, even as we adjust to reduced state support.
We are finishing the current fiscal year with about 9.5 percent less state funding than was originally budgeted for fiscal year 2010. We anticipate having about 13 percent less in state funding for next year, compared with the FY 10 starting point. And for the following year, FY 12, when federal stimulus funds awarded to Mississippi will have been exhausted, our state support may be 23 percent below the current year's original budgeted amount.
But thanks to careful planning and the cooperative spirit of our faculty and staff, we will be well positioned to weather those financial downturns with our quality intact. The SCEI recommendations are being carefully reviewed by our vice presidents with help from an Advisory Committee chaired by Dr. Glenn Steele, with faculty, staff and student members. Implementation of several recommendations related to administrative processes is under way or will be this summer. The Retirement Incentive Program will provide some budgeting flexibility in the year ahead and much more in the year after that.
I have recently approved a change in the distribution of research overhead funds recovered from funding agencies that grew out of an SCEI recommendation. In the future, the proportion of recovered overhead directed to the General Fund will be 44 percent, up from 40 percent. We have redirected the 4 percent that was previously set aside for the Reach for Excellence fund created a few years ago. The Office of Research will continue to receive 19 percent of overhead and the generating departments, colleges, centers, and institutes will continue to share the remaining 37 percent.
Decisions about SCEI recommendations related to academic programs will be made with involvement of the affected faculty members.
There is no question that these are tough times that require serious resolve, but having seen the way the Mississippi State family responded to the challenges during the past year, I am more confident than ever that we will come out of this recession more efficient and focused and with our quality high across the board. Our priorities will be to protect and build on academic quality, minimize the impact on our people, and continue to grow in enrollment, in research, and in fund raising as we move our university forward.
I appreciate more than I can say your dedication and support and your unflagging commitment to Mississippi State. Thank you for a great year, and have a safe and enjoyable summer.
Mark E. Keenum, President