Murray State University President Bob Jackson is reallocating funds for his presidential investiture into need-based scholarships.
Jackson outlined the university's “road ahead” at a faculty summit on Friday. He also described his first year in office as "a good year."
He suggested he doesn't plan on going anywhere soon: "This will be my last gig," he said, adding that he envisions teaching at the Department of Economics and Finance should his role as president end.
The number one issue with student recruitment and retention, he said, is finances and the university ‘doesn’t need to spend money where it doesn’t need to spend money.’ He said past presidential investitures have cost between $20,000 to $30,000 and said neither he, nor Murray State, needs that.
“Our students are first and we’re going to take $25,000 from the president’s office budget that would be used for something like that and place it into need-based scholarships for the coming year for students --,” said Jackson, cut off by a round of applause from faculty.
Jackson was named president last year and has made turning around a period of enrollment decline a top priority. One effort ahead involves simplifying tuition rates in the year ahead, others involve new scholarships and academic programs. He also announced a new presidential task force to increase diversity on campus.
Jackson said enrollment this fall is “trending up,” but, when pressed, said it is too early to provide a figure or an estimate. He thanked faculty and staff for helping to overcome a double-digit trend downward over recent years. He noted that 70% of the university’s budget is enrollment driven. He outlined increasing efforts to recruit students from Illinois.
The issues of performance funding and deferred maintenance continue into the next year. On performance funding, Jackson said “the model is not benefitting Murray State like it should.” He said he is working with the legislature to put in a stop loss provision of 2%. On deferred maintenance, he said the university has $326 million in projects - and to put that into perspective, said the total annual budget is around $150 million.
On pensions, KERS rates are frozen at 49% for the next year, giving the university time to consider options ahead of a potential rate increase of 84% - or more - next year.
An area for discussion in the year ahead involves evaluating on-campus housing and potential public-private partnerships. Jackson said he will make a recommendation to the board soon regarding the ‘Old Richmond’ residential college.
Jackson said of the recent Briggs and Stratton closure announcement affecting 600 jobs in Murray, the university has “extra work to do” in helping assist in the replacement of that plant as well as continuing education, certificates and degrees for the families affected.