Hawkins, other higher ed

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 26, 2001

officials fight proration


Staff Writer

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Jan. 25, 2001 10 PM

MONTGOMERY ­ Proration is inevitable, but those involved with higher education spent part of Thursday making their case to Alabama legislators.

Troy State University Chancellor Jack Hawkins, who is president of the Council of College and University Presidents, said meeting with legislators Thursday was important because higher education leaders "have to call attention to the plight we face."

While everyone has been experiencing an economic boom, higher education has not, Hawkins said.

That makes cuts necessary, especially with proration looming overheard.

"I’ve asked our people to use good judgement," Hawkins said of TSU making cuts.

Some of those things being cut will include travel and equipment that is not necessary.

Standing on the Alabama House of Representatives floor, Hawkins said the future of higher education reminds him of the Titanic.

"The captain knew he was on a sinking ship. Beginning in 1994, the ship of higher education began to sink."

Some of those "jumping ship" have been faculty members who were able to get higher-paying jobs elsewhere, considering Alabama ranks 44th in the nation in faculty salaries. Alabama ranks 11th of 12 Southeastern states in average faculty salaries, followed by Mississippi.

But, salaries are not the only issue. There are technological advances that need to be met and yesterday’s technology can not compete in tomorrow’s world.

Quoting another, Hawkins said, "When the rate of change outside is greater than the rate of change inside, the end is near."

Hawkins said those in higher education are not naive about proration, but "believe the future of higher education is in jeopardy."

Information gathered by the Higher Education Partnership indicates Alabama is "dead last" in the region in the annual average of favorable change in state appropriations over the past five years. It is also at 60.2 percent of the regional standard in state appropriations.

Charlie Morris of the Commission of Higher Education said appropriations have either been cut or the Legislature mandated spending increased funds on pay raises.

"If this funding trend of the past five years is extended to the next five years, Alabama could loose from 37 to 48 million dollars," Morris said.

Morris said he wants to see higher education get one-third of any new education money.

"We believe one-third is a reasonable request," Morris said.

According to Gordon Stone, executive director of the Higher Education Partnership, the state "continues to fall behind our peer states in per-student funding for its public universities, maintenance of facilities and faculty salaries. Therefore, it is important that the Partnership remind the people of Alabama that all of the citizens of the state depend on university work. From the training of our school teachers to the development of the doctors in our hospitals, universities are important."

Hawkins reiterated that by saying Alabama public colleges and universities are: the ones that train the people who get things done, have quality education recognized around the world and train the state’s leadership.

He said it is "overwhelming" that the public’s support of these four-year institutions have not translated into more money.

"Higher education is still treading water," Hawkins said, adding higher education is the key to the future of the state, Hawkins said.

Stone said last year brought an improvement in funding for higher education, but more increases are necessary.

"However, we do believe that when the dollars are appropriated, we should receive our traditional split of one-third (for) higher education and two-thirds (for) K-12," Stone said. "The state can not divide one sector of education against another and expect its citizens to win!"

Hawkins summed up his comments by saying budget cuts in higher education threaten the future of Alabama.