Two new university presidents is about all the state College Board has to cheer about these days. Newly selected president of the Mississippi University for Women and the just named USM president got a warm welcome from educators. Everyone in the room know the biggest challenge they face is money.
"Obviously, I would much rather be coming in under good financial times, so everybody could get a raise but that's not the case so we're going to deal with it," incoming USM President Dr. Shelby Thames said.
The higher education budget passed by state lawmakers is $40 million short of what colleges and universities say they need. That means students may face a third tuition hike in as many years.
"Everybody feels very deeply that this is something we want to look at closely, and we don't want to make a hasty decision," new MUW President Dr. Claudia Limbert said.
Limbert and Thames say money woes will mean tough choices at each of their universities. Trying to keep faculty and programs with shrinking budgets won't be easy. But the head of the Institutes of Higher Learning, Dr. Tom Layzell, says both new presidents have their jobs because they are up to the challenge.
"They've been in higher education a long time. They've seen these kind of cycles where you have increases and decreases, so this is nothing new to them," Layzell said.
While the new presidents work on balancing the funds they have, the state college board is gathering more information before its May meeting to decide just how much more students will have to pay.
Board members have discussed tuition increases in the range of 10 percent. This year, college tuition went up 15 percent.
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