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No Bond Bill: Universities Say They’ll Pass on Repairs

By Daniel Cherry | Published 04 May 2012 05:52pm | comments

The smoke is clearing from this year's legislative session, and it's becoming evident Mississippi's colleges and universities took a big hit. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports the legislature didn't pass a bond bill and higher education officials are crying foul.

Mississippi's institutions of higher learning estimate buildings on the state's 8 public universities are more than 600 million dollars behind on scheduled maintenance. Community colleges say they're 166 million behind. Bond interest rates are at historic lows, but Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves doesn't believe that's reason to take on more debt.

"With rates as low as they are right now, should you go buy a $2 million house. I don't think so. The fact that rates are particularly low, certainly should not suggest that you should go out and borrow more than you can afford to pay back."

Funding for infrastructure and building repairs at colleges and universities comes from bonds, but the legislature didn't approve any new bond debt this year. Colleen Hartfield, with community relations at Hinds Community College, says schools need money to build facilities to house the growing enrollment.

"Being able to have the facilites and the programs where you have the space for students to enter makes all the difference. You don't like to turn a student away because you don't have the resources to educate more students."

Some say, passing on making repairs now will only lead to higher repair costs down the road. But Speaker of the House Philip Gunn says this is all just part of the legislative process.

"I don't see any scenario under which we allow community colleges or anyone else to fall in such a state of disrepair that we can't provide services to them. The failure to pass a bond bill is not the end of the world."

Mississippi's universities and colleges will have to hold on until next year to see if they'll get the funds they need to bring their buildings up to par.

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