As state agencies brace for even deeper cuts next year, officials say education could be one of the most impacted. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how more cuts to higher education could mean Mississippi will slip even further behind. 

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Potential Cuts to Higher Ed. Concern Some Education Officials

By Daniel Cherry | Published 28 Feb 2012 07:32pm | comments

As state agencies brace for even deeper cuts next year, officials say education could be one of the most impacted. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how more cuts to higher education could mean Mississippi will slip even further behind.

As the legislative session grinds on, a new budget for fiscal year 2013 is in the near future. While not a done deal yet, both the Governor's and the Legislature's recommended budgets show overall cuts to higher education spending. That's something John Hilpert, President of Delta State University isn't looking forward to seeing.

"Normally a university can deal with cuts in a 1 or 2 year sequence. It's never easy, but it's possible. But this has been a really protracted period. We've had 4 or 5 years now of cuts, and it is a problem."

If those cuts come, universities have to make up the difference...often through tuition increases. Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves says cost is making affordability a real issue for many...especially when demand for higher education is increasing.

"We've got to continue to invest in our educational systems because it's imperative. We have seen a huge increase in the number of kids that are going to our community colleges and our institutions of higher learning, but it's not just kids, it's adults going back to school to learn a skill."

Still it appears cuts will be on the way to nearly all areas of education. Institutions of Higher Learning Commissioner Hank Bounds says if the state is serious about getting off the bottom in educational attainment, it's time to implement early childhood education.

"If you can't read proficiently by the end of the 3rd grade, you're exponentially more likely to go to prison, exponentially more likely to drop out of high school. So it's a pay me now or pay me later situation. I recognize we face real fiscal challenges, but we can't allow 2 or 3 years of fiscal challenges to have a lifetime of negative impact on our state."

There's no way to tell how much cuts will impact higher education until the legislature votes on an official budget later this year.

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