The board of trustees’ Ad Hoc Committee on Student Health recommended to the board at its Monday meeting that members authorize JSU President Bill Meehan to negotiate with Regional Medical Center to provide health services for the university. The recommendation includes a goal for Meehan to report back to the board in January. The trustees approved the recommendation unanimously.
“This is in no way — and anyone on this board will agree with me on this — a reflection on our current services and what [director] Amanda Bonds and her staff have done at the Student Health Center,” said ad hoc committee chair Randy Jones. “We owe them a debt of gratitude, and they have done a fantastic job with the facility and the services they had. We also saw a definite need to go further with this and provide more services.”
The ad hoc committee has been meeting over this issue for three years.
The board also approved Monday its final $108 million budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
The trustees voted unanimously to accept the financial plan that will guide institutional spending through the end of September 2013.
The budget has been cut by more than 2 percent since the trustees adopted an interim budget in July to keep the university operating until this month’s final budget could be prepared.
“It’s easier to present a conservative interim budget and come back and reduce, and that’s what we’ve done,” Building and Finance Committee chair Ronnie Smith told those gathered at the Houston Cole Library for the proceedings.
Smith said the 2.28 percent budget cut was driven primarily by a nearly $2.2 million reduction in scholarship revenue and expense.
During the committee’s work session, Clint Carlson, vice president of administrative and business affairs, explained that when he prepares the interim budget, he conservatively estimates that students will enroll with 16 credit hours.
Carlson later explained that some of the drop is due to some scholarship awardees not enrolling in JSU. For those who did enroll, he said, most did not sign up for a full 16 hours. Carlson was able to project those line items for the year using actual numbers for the fall term.
This holds true for the other main driver in the budget change, a decline in graduate enrollment.
From fall 2011 to this semester, graduate enrollment fell by 9.4 percent — from 1,291 students to 1,170.
This enrollment drop resulted in a $324,035 decrease in graduate tuition revenue this semester over last fall, which has been more closely projected for the spring and summer terms, Smith explained to the board.
“We’ve been trying to encourage scholarships, particularly for those better students to attend JSU,” said Smith. “This is not a reduction in scholarships.”
He also pointed out that according to figures from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, JSU ranked 10th of 14 state universities in cost for a typical undergraduate in-state student. And in a year in which universities increased tuition by a median of 5.2 percent, Jacksonville State has the third-lowest increase among the 14 schools at 3.9 percent.
“While we’ve adopted a budget, we certainly hope that we are managing in a way that least impacts students,” he said.
In other business, the board
-Approved a name change for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences to the College of Nursing to more accurately reflect the purpose of the institution.
-Approved a name change for the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment to the Office of Research and Planning in order to properly represent the broadened scope of the department.
-Approved the creation of a conditional admission category for English Language Institute students in an attempt to bring JSU more in line with other universities and make it more competitive in the marketplace. University provost Rebecca Turner said some countries require conditional admission before allowing students to leave the country to learn language skills.
-Upon re-entering the public meeting from an executive session, the board announced a favorable evaluation for President Meehan and voted to again name Jim Bennett chairman of the body.
Star Staff Writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter: @PRentz_Star.