Alcorn StateReworked funding plan key to expansion

Published 1:00 am Sunday, May 6, 2012

Alcorn State President Dr. M. Christopher Brown II has big visions for the Lorman university. Those plans include further expansion into Vicksburg and infrastructure improvements to the main campus. The goal is ambitious. He has a 10-year vision, but says that reaching that vision is increasingly difficult because of the state Legislature.

Each year, the eight public universities in Mississippi have to deliver funding requests to the Legislature. Brown — and he said the other seven university presidents also are on board — wants the state to allocate budgets on two-year terms.

“Each year, we go back with hat in hand,” Brown said during a stop in Vicksburg. Launching long-range capital improvement projects is nearly impossible, he said, when schools have to go back annually without any notion of how much funding will be available.

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Dr. Hank Bounds, executive director of the Institutions of Higher Learning, said college funding has been cut by about 15 percent over the past four years. A hike in college tuitions to offset those cuts and shore up the Public Employees Retirement System is set to be up for vote by the College Board Monday.

It is no surprise economic times are tough in Mississippi. Brown is aware of that. But as the president of one of the smallest four-year schools in Mississippi with an enrollment of about 3,500, he knows that to expand he will need to know how much money his school will receive. He said the pushback from the Legislature is because that’s the way its been done in the past and Mississippi is slow to entertain change.

To get Mississippi as a national economic engine will take an educated work force. To attract the best and brightest students, colleges need the facilities and professors to meet those goals. Providing a funding roadmap so that Brown doesn’t have to return each year “hat in hand” can only be a positive step in realizing his vision for the future.

That vision includes a large footprint in Vicksburg.

Brown in 2011 became the youngest president in Alcorn State University history. On his inauguration day, he preached about the vision for the future. He told of making Alcorn into the best it could be. He talked about Vicksburg and Alcorn’s stamp here. He is genuine in his goals and aspirations.

The road map is drawn, but there are still too many stop signs blocking progress.