MSU President details need for potential tuition fees and fee increase
Spring 2021 semester is coming to an end, and Murray State University President Bob Jackson said lifting of the mandate of the outdoor mask on campus is the first of many benchmarks in working toward a more “normal” campus life for fall 2021. In an interview with WKMS News, Jackson also detailed considerations about the potential increase in fees. of tuition recently approved by the Murray State Board of Regents.
Jackson said that Murray State Board of Regents will discuss in detail the budget for the next fiscal year and the tuition fee increase. The board approved an increase of up to 1%.
Jackson noted that there is no recommended increase in housing costs. He stated that the increase in catering costs was contractually fixed by Sodexo which manages Pilots dinner, and credited this partnership with MSU’s ability to deliver “national brand restaurants” such as Starbucks, Steak N Shake, and Chick-fil-A to campus. He noted that these offers contribute to recruitment and retention efforts.
Regarding the allocation of funds, Jackson said the university has many needs, including deferred maintenance and asset preservation projects. He noted the ongoing project at the Lovett Auditorium, which he said “is one of the most important buildings on the Murray State University campus.” He said the building, which is over 90 years old, is generally used daily by several departments as part of the educational mission and has hosted nationally and internationally renowned speakers.
Jackson also highlighted the need for maintenance in “arguably the most important building for our students and future students”: the Curris Center.
“From a recruitment and retention perspective, when a new student comes to visit Murray State University, they get there. It’s the first place they enter and it’s the last place they see when they leave, ”he said.
Another major area of investment, Jackson said, is in university employees. He said the budget for the next fiscal year includes an increase in the cost of living adjustment (COLA) that will benefit lower paid faculty and staff more than those receiving higher salaries. He noted that the budget for the current fiscal year (which ends June 30) did not allow a COLA and the previous year allowed a 1% increase. He also noted that no increase in benefit costs had been passed on to employees.
“You’ll see a recommendation from COLA of increases to invest in our people, somewhere between 1.25% up to around 3.5%, as well,” he explained. “So we invest in people, we invest in teaching and learning, and we invest in our assets entrusted to us.”
Looking ahead to the next 30 years of budgets will take some thought, Jackson said, as the university increasingly manages pension contributions and navigate simultaneously inflationary increases such as building materials during ongoing maintenance and renovation projects. He noted the recently past House bill 8 (HB8) allows the university one more year to prepare for a rate hike.
Jackson explained that the university’s contribution will increase from about 49% to about 99%, which equates to an increase from $ 4 million per year to $ 8 million per year. But HB8 is only asking the university to pay half of that extra contribution to the state pension system for years two through five – which translates to an additional $ 2 million per year for those years.
“Our overall budget is around $ 140 million. Obviously, in an environment where there is no new revenue or very little new revenue, $ 2 million is a lot. And that is on top of all the other costs and inflationary increases that we have to overcome with agility, ”he said. “Budgeting in the midst of a pandemic, and now near the end of a pandemic, is not easy. We are therefore examining the impact of the enrollments of our students and future students, which creates an impact of approximately 71% on our budget. It is important.”
Jackson said developing budgets with a multitude of considerations was “not easy.”
“It’s an honor to the vice-president [of Finance and Administrative Services] Jackie Dudley and the budgetary staff of this university and many of our deans, our chairs, our faculty, our staff, Provost Tim Todd, I could go on and on. But the administrators of this institution fully understand the importance of what we are dealing with and have helped us to solve this problem in a very careful way, ”he added.
In a move towards more ‘normal’ campus life, MSU is just a week away to host its first opening ceremonies in person since 2019.
“We have a lot of happy graduates,” Jackson said. “We will be holding four different launch ceremonies, the first on Friday evening for masters and doctoral students. And on Saturday we have three launch ceremonies to reduce capacity, crowds so that we adhere to guidelines, national and national. Everyone is looking forward to it. I can not wait to be there. Virtual debuts just aren’t the same. “
Looking forward to the summer semester and the next fall semester, Jackson said the university is “making great strides” in its work toward benchmarks that relieve COVID-19 restrictions. He noted that the university is able to do this, in large part, due to the campus community’s membership in the Safety and health guidelines for runners. He said that as the number of positive cases continues to decline and more people get vaccinated to work on herd immunity, the university will be able to lift the restrictions in accordance with CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the state government lifting health mandates.
“When you look at Murray State University relative to our peers, we’ve done pretty well and I’m proud of it. A lot of people have worked very, very hard to make this a reality, ”he said. “I think fall will look a lot like fall 2019, not fall 2020.”