Two State Senators Speak About Budget Cuts to Higher Education
HATTIESBURG, MISS - You might have heard that higher education in Mississippi has taken some big hits in recent years because of budget cuts, which includes this year's eight million dollar reduction and 20 layoffs at USM. Recently, two state senators spoke about the issues concerning higher education. "Many people don't want to talk about it, but I think a time will come when we've got to look at the number of universities in Mississippi. With the population of three million people do we need eight full-fledged universities, or do we need to look at reducing that number," Mississippi's State Senator, John Polk suggested. Polk says a time could be coming for Mississippi to reduce the number of universities to save state dollars. "That has not been done recently, but I think if we continue to have to cut, that is something on the table," Polk said. Polk says school closings would depend on geographical location and degrees offered that are beneficial to the state's workforce. "There's been one mentioned that Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena should be one of the universities we look at closing," Polk said. Hypothetically speaking, Polk believes Mississippi Valley could serve the state better in a different way. "If we did do it... we need to look at making a private charter school or public school, out of that facility and making a boarding school out of it. There are a lot of alternatives you can do with big facilities like that," Polk said. The budget cuts to higher education has many politicians trying to figure the right approach to resolve this issue. Mississippi's State Senator, Joey Fillingane spoke about how a local university is being affected. "Southern Miss has been working really hard to bring their enrollment back up, and that's a factor when you are hearing jobs being cut and people being laid off," Fillingane said. Fillingane says that the state pays each university according to the number of students they have, and when a college drops in enrollment they lose dollars. Despite the murky water surrounding higher education, Polk still remains optimistic. "The future of higher ed [education] is robust, it's good," Polk said. "We have some good presidents, they're doing some good things to ensure their university's survival." The new budget will go into effect July 1, after the legislature approves it.