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9/22/2015 - Jackson, Miss.

Focusing on the resources needed to achieve the state's goal for higher education, Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Glenn Boyce presented the universities' budget request for Fiscal Year 2017 to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee at a hearing this morning in Jackson.

The universities' request includes an increase of $50.1 million for faculty and staff salaries and an additional $14.2 million for student financial aid over the appropriation for Fiscal Year 2016. It also includes a request of $17 million to address facility repair and renovation needs.

"We cannot overstate the importance of faculty and staff on student success and research," said Dr. Boyce. "Our faculty members serve as an inspiration to students and help them persist and graduate. Our staff members provide essential services that maintain campus safety, create a vibrant campus life and prepare students to transition into the workforce. Our researchers conduct important research that helps solve Mississippi's most pressing problems."

The request also includes $17 million to address facility needs. "Maintaining safe, secure and state-of-the-art facilities is an ongoing challenge," said Dr. Boyce. In addition to eight main campuses, the university system includes the medical center and 12 satellite centers with 1,653 buildings totaling more than 34 million square feet. Currently, 47 percent of academic space and 50 percent of residential space on university campuses is more than 25 years old.

"The facilities infrastructure goes beyond brick and mortar," said Dr. Boyce. "Our faculty, staff and students must have the technology infrastructure necessary to have the teaching and learning opportunities they expect in the 21st century."

The request also includes a $14.2 million increase for student financial aid funding. "State-supported student financial aid is an essential tool for helping Mississippi families cover the cost of higher education," said Dr. Boyce. There are currently 29,909 students receiving financial aid at public and private universities and community colleges.

"To increase educational attainment, we must attract and retain quality faculty and staff and provide students with the support and facilities they need to succeed," said Dr. Boyce. "Our request is a direct reflection of this."

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Mississippi Public Universities enrolled 93,833 and awarded 16,813 degrees in Academic Year 2015. Fall 2015 enrollment reached its highest point in history, with 81,132 students. Universities lead more than 2,500 research projects.

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