By Jeff Amy/The Associated Press
JACKSON — Hank Bounds will get at least four more years as the head of Mississippi’s public university system.
The College Board voted unanimously Thursday to extend Bounds’ contract as commissioner of higher education. Bounds had about 18 months remaining on his original four-year contract signed in 2009.
“It was simply a vote of confidence in what he’s doing,” said College Board President Ed Blakeslee. The Gulfport resident led the search committee that originally chose Bounds.
Bounds’ salary is $341,250 a year. Blakeslee said the board didn’t give him a raise because of tight budget conditions, even though some members would have liked to. Some university presidents also recently received contract extensions without raises.
A native of the Forrest County hamlet of Brooklyn, Bounds was state superintendent of K-12 schools from 2005 to 2009 and was superintendent of the Pascagoula school system from 2001 to 2005. Before that he was a principal at Pascagoula High School and Lumberton High School.
“I think the biggest challenge we have in front of us is a better educated citizenry,” Bounds said of his goals for the state’s eight public universities. “How do we get more Mississippians with a college degree?”
Bounds, 45, said he’s enjoying his work and isn’t sure how long he envisions himself as the head of the 81,000-student system.
“It’s not like I’m going to retire any time soon,” he said.
Bounds said that among his achievements so far has been navigating decreasing state funding at the same time enrollment has risen. He said that schools have become more productive and efficient, which is one of the things that College Board members lauded.
“Dr. Bounds has worked with the board and the universities to explore every avenue available to use resources wisely and manage the campuses as efficiently as possible,” board Vice President Bob Owens of Jackson said in a statement. “Despite very tight budget conditions, the universities continue to grow and provide an excellent education to every student.”