The trustees of Mississippi’s eight public universities this week approved a request for $100 million in annual capital spending against a prioritized list of $634.4 million in that would be spent on 80 projects, including the University of Mississippi medical and health sciences campus in Jackson.
The trustees’ approval of the request represents a compromise with the $130 million per year Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds says is needed but is unlikely to pass the Legislature.
The $100 million request grows out of legislation passed during the 2013 session designed to guarantee a steady, reasonable capital investment in university projects including a new $30 million School of Medicine teaching building in Jackson, $20 million library addition and a new environmental and civil engineering building at Mississippi State, to $20 million for a new recreation center and transportation hub on the south campus at the University of Mississippi.
Projects also are prioritized for all other state universities, including major library expansions and improvements at Mississippi University for Women.
Bonds, of course, are borrowed funds, but they are long-term obligations, and the prevailing bond market with low interest rates makes them particularly attractive for institutional investment.
Agreement to settle for less than an ideal amount from the trustee’s perspective sets a cooperative precedent that can help meet goals but on a somewhat longer schedule. None of the needs listed is classified as a physical emergency but some of the priorities are urgently needed.
The College Board has been pushing for a multi-year capital spending plan.
Bounds said he’s encouraged by the 2013 Legislature’s decision to pay for some maintenance using cash, instead of borrowing.
Anticipated, approved priority spending recommendations vary:
• Mississippi State University (including Forestry, Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine) – $113 million;
• University of Mississippi and University of Mississippi Medical Center – $232 million;
• Mississippi University for Women – $23.84 million;
• University of Southern Mississippi – $37.11 million;
• Alcorn State University – $56.1 million;
• Jackson State University – $51.5 million
• Delta State University – $62.5 million;
• Mississippi Valley State University – $47.95 million, and
• Research Center – $9.42 million
The projects all represent intellectual investment, but on a more quantifiable basis, each project represents jobs, taxes paid and business conducted in the state.
Quality is costly but the return is profitable in many ways.