As the Spring semester comes to a close, I wish you a very productive and enjoyable summer. For our students who graduate this weekend, I wish you the very best. Delta State sends you out into the world to greet the many wonderful opportunities that life and career will afford you. We hope you will always keep Delta State in your hearts, and return often to your alma mater. To our students who will be returning this summer and fall, get ready for some exciting days on campus. This next academic year will bring a number of positive changes to campus ranging from new student success programs to several building renovations to exciting athletic competition and all the fun of collegiate life. To our faculty, I hope the summer break helps recharge your batteries. If you are teaching summer session, then I’ll see you around. For our staff, I look forward to meeting the newness of a four-day workweek with you as we strive to save money on utility bills.
Here are a few timely items I would like to share with you.
1) Campus Forums – Thanks to those of you who attended the forums for students, faculty, and staff last week. Your questions and concerns are important to me, and we are attempting to address each and every issue raised. For those who missed the forums, I have outlined below the basic information about the state budget cuts and how the university is responding to them.
State budget cuts – When we begin our new fiscal year on July 1, we will have $2.2 million less to run the university than we did a year ago. These cuts imposed by the state are very serious. We experienced six mid-year cuts during the last 16 months, and four mid-year cuts in this fiscal year alone. Collectively, the public universities in the state have been cut 13.8% in the last year and a half — more than $100 million for all eight campuses. For Delta State, the mid-year cuts equaled more than a 5% cut. On top of that, our operational budget for the upcoming new fiscal year beginning July 1 has been cut an additional 5%, for a total cut of 10%, which represents the $2.2 million. But, we will remain a strong institution because we have planned well, and we are managing our resources well — especially in tough budget times.
University response: offsets and savings – In response to the state budget cuts, Delta State’s first priorities are making every effort to protect our people and our programs, and ensuring that we continue serving our students well. On the revenue side of the ledger, the university has increased tuition 7%, or $441 annually, to $6,859 annually (including the capital improvement fee). We are digging into our reserve fund, establishing an administrative fee on designated funds, and asking our Foundation for greater support. On the expense side of the ledger, we imposed a hiring freeze and a spending freeze this spring, but we will lift both beginning July 1. However, we ask all faculty and staff to continue your good diligence and prudence in spending institutional dollars. We are closing the golf course after June 30, as well as the university’s operation at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale. We will postpone some capital project expenditures, and realize some savings from modest reductions in the Athletics and Facilities Management budgets. During the summer months, we will shut down some campus buildings totally and parts of other buildings to save on air conditioning costs, and we will implement a four-day workweek between May 8 and August 4. All of these actions are designed to offset the $2.2 million in state budget cuts.
2) New Initiatives – Despite the budget cuts, we are working hard to marshal scarce resources to support some important initiatives identified by our faculty and staff that are necessary to support our students and programs. There will be slight budget increases to support classroom technology and equipment, library materials, diversity programs, scholarships, campus safety, advertising and marketing, and a few growth areas. Enrollment increases in our DMI/Entertainment Industry Studies program and in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation justify a new faculty member in each of those departments. We are also hiring staff to operate the new academic success program for student-athletes, funded by a grant from the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
3) Building Projects – Watch for progress on campus as renovation commences for the Young-Mauldin Dining Hall and Zeigel Hall, as well as the groundbreaking for the Statesmen Boulevard project that will connect Highway 8 to the Athletic Complex. These projects are funded by state bonds/federal funds — not the university’s operational budget.
Thank you for all you do to make Delta State a great place to live, learn, and work!