Miss. university funding revamped to lessen disparities

Published 7:23 pm Friday, April 18, 2008

The funding formula used by the College Board to disburse money to Mississippi’s public universities will change in July.

It will mean some of the smaller colleges will give up money to the larger schools, according to College Board members.

The plan will be implemented over the next six years to reduce inequities in state funding among universities.

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“It took us a while to get in this situation we’re in, and the institutions that are most adversely affected — in the staff’s opinion — need some time to work out of it,” said Aubrey Patterson, chairman of the board’s finance committee.

Board members said next year’s cuts are small and could mean not filling open positions. University leaders have not determined what the financial losses will mean for their campuses long term.

During the first year of the plan, which begins in July, the College Board will take $10,000 from Mississippi Valley State University and $175,886 from Delta State.

The University of Mississippi would get an additional $1.9 million.

“Nobody takes pleasure in anybody being hurt in any way, but if the University of Mississippi is underfunded, we’re being hurt,” said Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat.

The new formula and its adjustments are meant to correct a College Board funding decision dating to the 1990s. Then officials implemented a funding formula with set percentages for each school. As enrollments grew, funding changes didn’t match increases in enrollment and expenses.

The funding formula was changed in 2003 to better reflect enrollments and expenses, but officials say they haven’t had enough money to fully implement it.

The formula change only affects part of the money the Legislature gives to the College Board to distribute. Money the state earmarks for schools and money from tuition revenue, endowments and research dollars are not considered in the formula.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center, which the Legislature funds separately, is not included in the changes.

College Board officials said there are 13 variables in the funding formula. Inevitable changes in enrollment, the number of faculty, the number of students in a particular major and other variables will change the cuts and gains forecast.

“We’re going to have to rerun the formula on an annual basis so that all variables are updated,” said Cheryl Mowdy, director of support operations for the College Board. “What we can tell you is if we ran (the formula) today and implemented it fully, Ole Miss would get $10 million and DSU would lose $5 million.”

The College Board agreed to phase in the plan over six years to give schools time to adjust to possible cuts.

Jackson State and Mississippi State will not gain or lose anything in the first year.

Mississippi University for Women will lose $136,283 next year.

“We’ll have to look at the budget again and see what we can do,” MUW President Claudia Limbert said. “That’s all we can do at this point.”