Funding Shortfalls in Mississippi
Kerri Jordan / Mississippi College
BUDGET: Budget cuts and shortfalls continue in Mississippi. In January, Governor Phil Bryant
ordered $51 million in budget cuts to our state’s $6.4 billion budget—this
following a $57 million cut in September 2016. The latest cuts include $10.3
million to public universities and $3.8 million to community colleges
(Associated Press). The legislature’s proposed budget for FY 2018 includes a
6.7% decrease in university budgets and a 6.5% decrease in community college
late summer, 2016, a central focus of higher education funding discussions was
remediation. In tax and budget workgroups, House Speaker Philip Gunn and other
lawmakers “narrowed in on the $35 million colleges and universities spend
annually on remediation” for college students. According to Kell Smith of the
Mississippi Community College Board, “around 74 percent of full-time community
college students had to take a remedial course during the 2015 fall semester.”
Workgroup participants also discussed access to higher education in Mississippi,
where low admission standards provide relatively easy access—but also mean that
many Mississippi students require substantial academic support (Norwood &
Royals). As of December 2016, proposed legislative budgets included reductions
in funds for remediation in higher education, with possible redistribution of
$4.5 million to K-12 (Ganucheau).
MISSISSIPPI PREPAID AFFORDABLE COLLEGE TUITION PROGRAM (MPACT): According to Mississippi Treasurer Lynn Finch, the
MPACT program faces a $12.6 million shortfall for fiscal year 2016 and can
become insolvent by 2025. For the past three years, the legislature has failed
to act on special appropriations requests to address MPACT shortfalls. The
shortfalls relate to the “Legacy” version of the plan, which is funded at only
72% (total Legacy shortfall is over $126 million). MPACT was restructured in
2014, based on audit findings; the current “Horizon” version of the plan,
according to Fitch, “‘is not only meeting, but exceeding our funding
targets. It is cost-neutral to taxpayers and cost-effective for
Mississippi savers’” (Fitch). Legacy plans will be honored; however, Mississippi
taxpayers must make up for shortfalls eventually.
In the foreseeable future, Mississippi higher education
will continue to struggle with funding. On many campuses—especially community
college campuses—fulltime English instructors are already spread thin, and
programs often rely on underpaid and over-obligated adjunct faculty. Reduced
funding will inevitably lead to additional burdens—such as teaching overloads
and larger numbers of students per section—in addition to reduced support
services for underprepared students.
Associated Press. “Governor Sets $51 Million More in Mississippi Budget Cuts.” Mississippi Business Journal. msbusiness.com. 13 January 2017.
Fitch, Lynn. “MPACT-Legacy Shortfall Now at $126.4 Million: Legislature Can Lessen the Burden on Taxpayers by Acting Now.” Lynn Fitch, State
Treasurer Newsroom. treasurerlynnitch.com. 2 March 2017.
Ganucheau, Adam. “FY 2018 Budget Outlook: Cuts for Most.”Mississippi Today. MississippiToday.com. 8 December
Norwood, Ashley F. G., & Kate Royals. “Budget Group: State Not Preparing Students for College.”Mississippi Today.
MississippiToday.com. 22 August 2016.