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University alumni ramping up fundraising

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Alumni groups at some of Mississippi’s public universities are ramping up their private fundraising in hopes of decreasing the impact of state budget cuts.

New initiatives have been planned at Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State, and others such as Mississippi State and the University of Southern Mississippi have set records for giving.

Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds said he welcomes the fundraising.

“We will take all the help anyone wants to provide,” Bounds said.

But he said such one-time donations should not be intended for recurring expenses.

By 2012, state appropriations to universities could be 25 percent below their 2009 levels. That has prompted most schools to scale back programs and staffing.

The Mississippi Valley State University National Alumni Association hopes to raise $15 million in contributions over the next five years.

The money will be used for scholarships and other projects, but not administrative costs.

Jackson State University’s Alumni in Motion formed in January amid discussions of a proposed merger of the state’s three historically black universities.

“Our university is about to lose several million to these funding cuts,” AIM member Aaron Thompson said. “There are things we can do to help take the strain off the overall budget.”

AIM plans a campaign to raise $75,000 before JSU’s homecoming Oct. 30.

For the past two years, Mississippi State has topped the $60 million mark in private donations, with more than $65 million contributed during the fiscal year that ended in June.

“We’re one of the few schools that are up this year,” said MSU vice president for development and alumni John Rush.

Last year was the third-highest giving year in MSU history.

University of Southern Mississippi vice president for development Bob Pierce said it’s too early to say whether the announcement that 29 faculty contracts will not be renewed at the end of the school year will impact giving.

“It’s difficult to sort of raise money in response to an economic disaster,” Pierce said. “While that may work for groups like the Red Cross or United Way, it doesn’t necessarily work for universities. We do not intend to go out there and say, ‘We’ve got a budget cut so please give.'”

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