State Higher Ed Funding Falling Fast

It only took a few years for Mississippi to make major strides in improving higher education. But some say those forward steps are closely being followed by ones moving backward.

The state used to be ranked 8th in the country for higher education funding, but now Mississippi has plummeted to 47th.

"Last year, we started going backward, so this year it's dramatic," Insitutes for Higher Learning Assistanct Commissioner Pam Smith says.  "14 percent is what's on the table right now in terms of a cut."

Officials with the institutes of higher learning fear this statistic will hurt the universities in the high demand fields, especially since the state made such good progress over the last several years.

"We were attracting people at all our institutions, and now each of them are reporting that they're having a lot of difficulty keeping people and recruiting them," Smith says.

But much of the business community isn't phased by the statistic.

"It's a short-term setback, not a long term fall," Blake Wilson with the Mississippi Economic Council says.

Business leaders say budget cuts are just par for the course and won't be a detriment unless they continue over the next several years. They say it's the big picture that's important.

"We're looking at what is the momentum, the plan, the focus and how do we get from here to there. The long term impact is going to be a positive one because of what these institutions have put in place," Wilson says.

But IHL officials are concerned these budget cuts could hurt those programs they've put in place.