Hinds Community College has officially been warned.
That is, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges’ board voted to place the college in Raymond on “warning” status.
“The Commission’s decision to issue this warning to the institution has no bearing on our daily operations; it will not affect federal funding, including financial aid available to students,” said Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse in a statement.
The SACS website states that a warning often, but not necessarily, precedes probation. An institution may be placed on warning or probation for noncompliance with any of the core requirements or significant noncompliance with the comprehensive standards.
Muse attributes the current financial challenges to reductions in state appropriations and economics factors that have created a strain for all the state’s community colleges.
“The warning is related to the financial status of the college,” said Renee Cotton, marketing director at Hinds. “State’s budget cuts are impacting all of us financially.”
“The bottom line for the community college system is that we received more than a 10 percent reduction in funding for FY2018. Specifically for Hinds Community College, this equals a reduction of approximately 12 percent, or $4.4 million less than our FY2017 appropriation,” said Muse.
“In the last couple of years, our expenses have increased while our enrollment and state appropriations have declined, which has resulted in a decrease in our unrestricted fund balance or our savings account.”
In preparing for the FY2018 budget year, which begins on July 1, Muse and the college’s Board of Trustees took the following actions:
·All Vice Presidents, Deans and Directors were asked to present plans to reduce their budget by 6 percent from the FY 2017 budget. These individual plans include reductions from salaries, benefits, part-time positions, adjunct overload pay, materials, supplies, travel and/or equipment. They were submitted to and approved by Muse.
· State revenues were budgeted at 12 percent less than FY2017 amounts.
· Vacant positions must be reviewed and approved by the President.
· The salary schedule for FY2018 remains at the FY2017 level.
· The Board approved a $10/hour increase in student tuition and a three percent increase in meal plans.
· The Board placed limitations on out-of-state travel for employees.
· The Board requested that steps be taken to increase the required minimum number of students in each class and to reduce adjunct costs.
In addition to those steps, the administrative team reviewed and evaluated program enrollment and other operational processes to identify opportunities that could have a positive financial impact on the college.
Among the administrative team’s recommendations were the following, which are being implemented:
· Increased rental fees for use of college facilities and added convenience fees for specific transactions to cover additional merchant costs.
· Reduced the total number of full-time employees through reorganization of vacant positions, retirements, etc.
Hinds Community College has been accredited by the body since 1928. SACS Commission of Colleges’ board is the recognized regional accrediting body in 11 southern states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia and in Latin America. Each institution goes through the accreditation process every 10 years.
“I am proud to say that Hinds was the first community college in the State of Mississippi to earn accreditation by this body,” Muse said.
The institution’s accreditation will not be reaffirmed while on warning or probation, but its accreditation will be continued.