200 students protest funding cuts at Delta State

Published 7:36 pm Wednesday, April 30, 2008

About 200 Delta State University students walked out of class Tuesday in protest of changes that will cut the school’s funding.

The students became upset after learning their campus and some of the state’s other small colleges will lose money, while the University of Mississippi will gain nearly $2 million in a shift College Board members say will distribute money more evenly.

Nathan Duff, the editor of Delta State’s student newspaper “The Delta Statement,” used his column to help spur the rally. He urged students to continue voicing their concerns by sending e-mails to legislators.

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“We’re going to keep the pressure on,” he said.

Delta State will lose more than $175,000 because of the shift. Alcorn State, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State and the University of Southern Mississippi will lose $10,000 to $136,000 each, while Mississippi State and Jackson State are not affected.

If enrollment and state funding, among many others variables, remain unchanged for six years, Ole Miss eventually would pick up an additional $10.9 million, while Delta State’s budget would be cut by $5.3 million.

“The board did not make this decision lightly. We did not make it quickly,” said Amy Whitten, who becomes the College Board’s president next month. “We’ve been studying the inequality and watching the inequality grow over the last five or six years.”

A funding formula approved in the 1990s did not factor in enrollment shifts. Over time, College Board members said, funding per student became disproportionately high at smaller schools.

“The truth of the matter is Delta State has benefited by probably well over $1 million over the last several years,” Whitten said.

Delta State students say their school is in the poorest part of the state and attracts students with the greatest financial need. They argue small schools like theirs don’t have as many wealthy alumni as Ole Miss and Mississippi State to fund endowments.

“I understand that they have money needs, and I think we are going to have to look over time at a better way to fund the whole system,” Whitten said. “The truth of the matter is we are grossly underfunded, and that’s making us have to make very painful choices.”