As state funding steadily decreases, Mississippi’s eight public universities must become more self-reliant in tackling the backlog of campus construction and renovation projects as well as paying for everyday educational expenses.
During its 2017 session, the Mississippi Legislature declined to approve any bond requests that would have financed projects totaling $569,878,901 on the university campuses.
Alumni giving, long the financial bedrock of athletic foundations, is becoming an increasingly important revenue resource for academic support.
“Donations from alumni are incredibly important to universities,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Glenn Boyce.
“These resources often provide scholarships to students, help attract top-notch faculty through endowed chairs and enable the university to address facility needs,” he said. “Alumni support plays a crucial role in helping universities maintain excellence and rise to new heights.”
Alumni may become a more reliable resource than the Legislature, but the degree of participation by graduates varies widely at Mississippi’s schools.
In a survey conducted by Mississippi Today, Mississippi State University ranked No. 1 with 17.6 percent of its alumni contributing $38.8 million to the school during fiscal year 2017. But at Delta State University, only 3 percent of alumni contributed during fiscal year 2017, donating $715,000.
In fiscal year 2016, the Council for Aid to Education reported in its annual survey, the national average for alumni participation was 9.2 percent and the total dollar amount given by alumni was $2,786,103 at four-year public institutions. In 2015, alumni participation rate on average was 9.5 percent. In 2014, the average was 9.7 percent.
For survey purposes, contributions to Mississippi’s university foundations, which support academic activity, were tallied; donations to school athletic foundations were not included.
Mississippi universities and their alumni donations for fiscal year 2017
• Mississippi State University: 17.6 percent of alumni gave $38.8 million
• University of Southern Mississippi: 4 percent of alumni gave $9.1 million
• Jackson State University: 6 percent of alumni gave $798,108
• Mississippi University for Women: 10 percent of alumni gave $773,816
• Delta State University: 3 percent of alumni gave $715,000
• Mississippi Valley State University: 6 percent of alumni gave $272,426.00
The University of Mississippi and Alcorn State University declined to disclose their alumni contributions.
Mississippi State University’s alumni support has helped elevate the foundation’s endowment to $470 million, the second largest in the state.
An endowment is an aggregation of assets invested by a college or university to support its educational mission in perpetuity. An institution’s endowment actually comprises hundreds of thousands of individual endowments. An endowment allows donors to transfer their private dollars to public purposes with the assurance that their gifts will serve these purposes for as long as the institution continues to exist.
Endowments for Mississippi’s public universities
• Alcorn State University: $15.9 million.
• Delta State University: $17.4 million.
• Jackson State University: $16.6 million.
• Mississippi University for Women: $46.4 million.
• Mississippi State University: $470 million.
• Mississippi Valley State University: $1.6 million.
• University of Mississippi: $675 million.
• University of Southern Mississippi: $94.5 million.
The board of trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning, which oversees Mississippi’s public universities, along with school presidents will make another run at the Legislature in 2018. Last month, the board voted to request $512,465,901 for facilities funding during the upcoming session in January.
“This is one of the absolute priority issues in this legislative session in the upcoming year. We just can’t let this happen again,” Boyce said.
During its August meeting, the IHL board released construction and maintenance priorities at each university.
Requests designated most important by each school
• Alcorn State University: water and sewer infrastructure emergency repairs, $1.5 million
• Alcorn State University School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences: child development laboratory center, $2.5 million
• Delta State University: reconstruction of president’s home, $1,753,575
• Jackson State University: renovation of Stewart Hall, which houses students: $7.5 million
“We are making a hard push going after our black males, making sure they are better represented at the university,” said JSU President William Bynum.
“There are some concerns about future male housing spaces.”
• Mississippi State University: kinesiology building, $30 million
• Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine: Blackjack forest wildlife research facility, $4,172, 500
• Mississippi University for Women: General campus repairs and renovations, $5.675 million
“Our top request as approved by the IHL Board of Trustees includes (all numbers approximate) $1.5 million for roofing projects; $1.5 million for mechanical, plumbing and electrical infrastructure in our cafeteria and student union; $1 million to demolish buildings that have been vacant for decades and that are in the footprint of a planned academic building, with the remainder to fund upgrades to fire alarm panels, elevators, paving and other campus infrastructure needs,” said MUW president Jim Borsig.
• Mississippi Valley State University: academic skills tenant improvements, $3 million
“The academic skills parlor is essential to the mission of this institution,” said MVSU interim President Dr. Jerryl Briggs. “Our priorities are focused on addressing those areas on campus where students spend a great deal of their time.
“This building is utilized for multiple academic departments as well as resources for our students. It houses the department of English and foreign languages mass communications, University College and computer labs,” he said.
• University of Mississippi: new science building, $15 million
“With the new STEM building, Ole Miss is committed to increasing our students’ opportunities to remain in Mississippi by providing transdisciplinary research and educational programs focused upon data science so as to harness the power of data to improve lives and well being,” Vitter said.
• University of Mississippi Medical Center: Batson Children’s Hospital of Mississippi expansion, $24 million
“For Children’s of Mississippi, we are seeking to expand and update pediatric care at UMMC by funding the construction of new buildings and renovations to existing space within Batson Children’s Hospital as part of our mission to create a better Mississippi and to improve the health of the state now and in the future,” said Vitter.
• University of Southern Mississippi: renovation of Bolton Hall, $4,500,000
“USM’s projects are designed to enhance student services and support retention and graduation efforts,” said Jim Coll, USM chief communication officer.
“Bolton Hall’s renovation will allow for multiple departments to move from Southern Hall, which the University intends to renovate as a one-stop service center for students as part of its master facilities plan for the Hattiesburg campus.”
• University of Southern Mississippi, Gulf Coast: student resource center, Gulf Park, $8.7 million
“The proposed Student Resource Center at the Gulf Park campus is also a priority because of the role it will play in assisting students with academic success initiatives, tutoring, advisement and other student progression assistance,” said Coll.
“Currently, there is no such facility at Gulf Park focused on activities and initiatives that lead to retaining students and helping them progress to graduation.”
• Education Research Center: reroof Paul B. Johnson building , $750,000