Mississippi needs ‘critical investments in higher education,’ Keenum says

Contact: Carl Smith

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Securing funding for Mississippi State’s faculty, capital projects and future growth remain President Mark E. Keenum’s main legislative priorities this year, the university’s 19th leader said during Monday’s [Feb. 12] Spring General Faculty Meeting.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum delivers remarks during the 2024 Spring General Faculty Meeting.
MSU President Mark E. Keenum delivers remarks during the 2024 Spring General Faculty Meeting. (Photo by Beth Wynn)

As inflation, growing operating costs and increasing employer contributions to the Public Employees’ Retirement System continue affecting all universities and community colleges across the Magnolia State, Keenum and other leaders of Mississippi’s institutions of higher learning will travel to the Legislature this week and advocate for “the critical investments in higher education our state needs,” he said.

“MSU—we’re not an expense for the state. We’re one of the best investments the state of Mississippi has, and it’s because of our people. They are the ones who make this university great,” Keenum said. “We can’t be the major research university and powerful economic engine this state needs without our people. We can’t fulfill our essential roles if our people don’t have the support and resources they need. I am committed to securing the funding we need for our people.”

These investments are needed, Keenum said, as level funding from the state would require MSU to find almost $13 million in new funding to cover inflation’s impact on the general operating budget—an expected increase of 3% or $6 million—and the extra $7 million needed for additional PERS contributions in the coming fiscal year. A 2% raise, he said, would require adding about $5.5 million to MSU’s budget.

“I’m grateful we’ve been able to give modest raises in recent years, but it’s not nearly enough to get us to where we need to be,” Keenum said. “We are working hard to tell our story and make sure our legislators understand how critical our needs are.”

MSU is also seeking additional funding for various capital improvements, including the College of Architecture, Art and Design’s facilities project and renovations to Bost Extension Center. Other upcoming projects the university will seek funding for include an expansion of the Wise Center for the College of Veterinary Medicine, addition of health-care training spaces at MSU-Meridian, support for the U.S. Grant Presidential Library and renovation of the MSU Deer Lab.

With a growing research portfolio and estimates projecting MSU could have its highest spring enrollment ever, Keenum said the university is experiencing positive momentum in all aspects of the land-grant institution’s mission.

“It’s clear that students want to be here, and that’s because of you—our world-class faculty,” he said. “I’m so grateful for everything you do for your students and for our university.”

Faculty also heard updates from Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw, Vice President for Research and Economic Development Julie Jordan and Keith Coble, vice president of the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, who shared their excitement for MSU’s ongoing academic and research successes and the impact the university is having on the Magnolia State.

“Our future here in Starkville, the Gulf Coast, Meridian and across the entire state could not be brighter,” Shaw said.

Mississippi State University is taking care of what matters. Learn more at www.msstate.edu.

Monday, February 12, 2024 - 4:07 pm