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Campus Life

Jackson State University Making Plans to Brace for HBCU Merger

Jackson State University would grow its College of Education program and brace for bigger class sizes and the elimination of faculty in other curriculums, according to a preliminary outline presented by school President Ronald Mason Jr. on Thursday.

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“The world is changing, and Jackson State is changing with it,” said Mason, who met with faculty and staff on campus to lay out plans to reorganize and improve JSU for the future.

“My expectation is that Jackson State will look different. How? I don’t know.”

JSU is preparing for an estimated $12 million hit – nearly 25 percent of its state appropriations – over the next two years because of declining state revenues.

“To put that in perspective, our entire athletic budget is only $6 million,” Mason said.

JSU already has approval from the state College Board for a 9 percent increase in tuition for the coming school year, and a second 9 percent increase in fall 2011.

Mason said he does not believe the hike will hurt enrollment. He said a “conservative” estimate is that JSU will grow by about 1 percent next year.

Areas that could be exempt from big hits include the College of Education, because focus groups had identified producing quality teachers as a priority, Mason said.

Any cuts likely will mean bigger class sizes and fewer faculty, but the information presented did not outline specific numbers of faculty positions that could be cut.

It did note that associate dean positions and chairs of departments could be eliminated under the plan.

Two years ago, the university set out on a restructuring process to create a “new academy.”

The presentation Thursday focused mostly on goals, including building up “centers of excellence” on campus – programs that will attract national attention – and pinpointing students’ likely aptitude early so they can be taught in specialized areas.

“We want to position ourselves to be better at the end of the process,” Mason said.

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Politics

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Campus Life

Where do you Stand on the Mississippi HBCU Merger?

Gov. Haley Barbour has recommended Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State merge to save the state money.

Ronald Mason Jr, JSU president since Feb. 1, 2000, publicly spoke against the proposal. But his 34-page presentation obtained by The Clarion-Ledger suggests creating another university – dubbed Jacobs State University – is a better alternative than letting “financially weak ASU, MVSU, JSU become weaker” in the state’s budget crisis.

The presentation notes historic inequities in the university system, calling the historically black schools the “poorest institutions of higher learning in the poorest state in America.”

“HBCUs rescued many but were designed and historically underfunded as part of Mississippi’s efforts to minimize the human potential of black people,” the presentation states. “Mississippi and its African-American citizens will create and support a new institution of higher learning primarily devoted to the specific purpose of restoring the human potential of black people.”

Mason said Tuesday that the presentation – which is detailed and includes a proposal to make the new school’s mascot the Phoenix – was not intended to be made public.

“It was a series of one-on-one conversations,” he said. “It’s just an idea.”

Mason said he was “picking brains” and looking for ways to “help the HBCUs survive” in his meetings with officials.

Because of the state budget crisis, the three HBCUs could see millions drained from their budgets by 2012, according to the state College Board.

“We need to be talking about more money for education, not fewer institutions,” she said. “All of the schools serve very specific purposes.”

Attempts to reach MVSU President Donna Oliver on Tuesday were not successful.