Tuition hike, other changes leave Southwest funds level

Published 5:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005

With level funding anticipated for state community colleges,Southwest Mississippi Community College leaders expect the school’s$16.8 million budget to remain about the same for the upcomingfiscal year.

“We’re still working on our budget for the coming year,” saidDr. Oliver Young, dean of instruction and president-elect of thecommunity college with just over 2,000 students.

Dean of Business Affairs Grady Smith said the net result ofstate budget actions is level funding plus 1 percent. Because statefunding based on enrollment is undergoing change, Smith said,Southwest’s funding was down in some areas but up in others.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Overall, the school is looking at a small net gain in dollars.However, Smith indicated that no major changes are expected.

“We’re not looking at increasing salaries,” said Smith, addingthat some instructors will be getting automatic increases of around$750.

School trustees recently raised tuition $100 a semester to $850.Smith said that action puts Southwest in line with other communitycolleges, some of which may also have mandatory fees that should beconsidered when looking at tuition.

“Our tuition was a little lower than some of the other communitycolleges,” Young said.

A new year budget plan will go to the school’s finance committeenext week, Young said. The budget will then be presented to theboard of trustees June 14.

In the wake of previous years’ cuts, school officials werethankful to not experience a funding reduction.

“If we had received a cut in our funding, we would have had tolook at some kind of reduction,” said Smith, mentioning thepossibility of staff reductions through attrition.

Within the last six years, Smith said, state revenue at one timemade up 71 percent of Southwest’s operating budget. State revenuenow accounts for 47 percent.

“We’ve had to make some changes,” Smith said. “There are only somany times you can cut before you get to payroll.”

Smith said faculty and staff are priorities for the school. Hesaid payroll and related costs make up more than 70 percent of thebudget.

With reductions elsewhere, Smith said Southwest’s budget wasdown to “bare bones.”

“I think that’s pretty much the situation with all 15 communitycolleges,” Smith said.

Like other community college leaders, Young was hopeful thatfunding would rise in future years.

“We need it to increase so we can improve our facilities andupgrade some of our programs,” Young said. “It’s hard to do thatwhen you’re being cut.”