Universities to present ‘belt-tightening’ plan

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Published: September 18,2009

Tags: Add new tag, education

AROUND MISSISSIPPI — Within a month, Mississippi’s eight public universities will finalize plans of action to cut back on the cost of textbooks, increase energy efficiency on campus and consolidate back office operations.

Cost-savings plans in a dozen key areas were presented to the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning at its most regular meeting.

Committing to finding efficiencies is the first step toward trying to responsibly deal with the realities of the economic situation facing Mississippi, Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Hank Bounds said.

“Our first priorities are to ensure that college is accessible to all and that our degree programs are of the highest quality,” he said. “But, we are going to have to learn to be leaner in the way that we do business. In the end, this will make our universities stronger for our students and our state.”

In September, the system was cut a total of about $34.3 million or 5 percent of the current fiscal year’s budget. This includes a reduction of about $3.8 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. The Ayers Settlement and Student Financial Aid were protected.

In fiscal year 2011, the reduction from the fiscal year 2009 appropriation could be as high as 10 percent. In fiscal year 2012, with the loss of ARRA dollars, that number could jump to the 20 percent range.

“The Board of Trustees unanimously supports this course of action,” Board president Scott Ross said. “It is very clear that tough decisions will have to be made but I am encouraged by our discussion here today.”

Other efficiency strategies universities will be looking at include: consolidating administration of benefits; implementing a reverse auction system; consolidating hardware and software purchasing; creating a system-wide mass notification program; improving the efficiency of fire protection programs; building a space inventory; and, completing campus peer reviews.

Finalized plans with timelines will be presented at the Oct. 14-15 meeting of the board.

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