Jackson State Faces 'Belt-Tightening' Year | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Jackson State Faces 'Belt-Tightening' Year

Dr. William Bynum Jr. said enrollment for the upcoming school year is down in his second week as the new president of Jackson State University.

Dr. William Bynum Jr. said enrollment for the upcoming school year is down in his second week as the new president of Jackson State University. Photo by Arielle Dreher.

Jackson State University's 11th president, Dr. William Bynum Jr., took the reins this month and told reporters this morning that the university is facing a few years of belt-tightening in its budget, but he maintained that the fourth-largest historically black college or university, or HBCU, in the nation will be just fine.

"Jackson State University is in good shape despite some of the financial issues that we dealt with. We're going to be just fine," Bynum said at the JSU Welcome Center this morning. . "We're going to have a tough year or two in terms of really tightening our belt. ... We're going to have to do some things, but at the end of the day, I'm confident that a year or two from now, we'll be just fine."

In June interim President Rod Paige announced a budget reduction plan that consolidated several academic departments, eliminated 42 non-faculty positions and froze several vacant positions on campus. The plan equates to about an 8-percent budget cut, as well as a plan to borrow $6 million, the Associated Press reported in June. The IHL Board approved a salary of $375,000 for Dr. Bynum in May, which is over $100,000 more than what Dr. Carolyn Meyers made in the same role, an AP report shows.

Bynum thanked Paige and his team for his work on the plan and said all the changes outlined in it went into affect as of July 1 after the IHL Board of Trustees approved the plan.

"Nothing I will do in the short-term to change any of those differences that the group went into place. ... Over time we may re-visit some of those decisions, but right now the main thing is making sure the budget is in a good place, and we really won't know that until the end of September," Bynum said.

Enrollment and application numbers are down for this fall, Bynum said, due to changes in scholarships that went into effect immediately. The Clarion-Ledger reported last week that the school will no longer offer out-of-state fee waivers to children of lifetime alumni association members.

"We are having some challenges because of, again, the scholarship change. That's been our biggest challenge of course ... although we've seen some decline in terms of applications and in terms of enrollment this far, that ultimately, the size of the freshman class will be similar to what it has been in previous years," he said.

Orientation begins in mid-August, and Bynum said final enrollment numbers will be available this fall to ultimately see how much scholarship changes affected enrollment. Bynum also said the university can anticipate that additional cuts will be coming either from the federal or the state government level, too. The Legislature cut IHL's budget by more than 8 percent for the funding that just kicked in July 1.

Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at arielle@jacksonfreepress.com and follow her on Twitter @arielle_amara.

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