"We're already doing a whole lot more with a whole lot less," said Keenum during Monday's Tupelo Rotary Club meeting. "... we may have to adjust tuition."
State funding for Mississippi State has dropped 25 percent over the past five years, while enrollment is up 26 percent, Keenum said. This fall, Mississippi State set a new record with 20,400 students.
"We're educating and graduating a record number of students," and serving as a key partner in economic development, Keenum said. "...You can't have low tuition, low public support and have quality. It doesn't work that way."
But a tuition hike isn't a foregone conclusion.
"We're not going to do it, if we get adequate funding from the state," Keenum said.
But despite the difficult budget, Keenum had plenty of good news to share on Monday. The Mississippi State faculty includes five members of the Fullbright program - the same number as Harvard University and University of California-Berkley. The university has been recognized nationally for its research programs and community outreach.
"There's very few universities that can claim both," Keenum said.
Even as the economy has slackened, Mississippi State alumni have stepped up for the school. For two years running, they have donated more than $60 million.
"That's never happened before," Keenum said, noting that last year, alumni donated $80 million.
Those gifts are responsible for the recently completed basketball practice facility, the football complex currently under construction and expansion plans for Davis Wade Stadium.
"There's no public money," in those athletic projects, Keenum said.
Beyond athletics, the university is currently building two new residence halls and has plans for a new 150,000-square foot classroom facility, a library expansion and a third new residence hall in response to the tremendous growth at the school. Renovation projects are in the works for landmarks Lee Hall and the YMCA building.
"We have a lot of great things happening," Keenum said.