The Alabama Commission on Higher Education approved a two- and four-year budget recommendation of $ 2.01 billion for public institutions in Alabama over two and four years for fiscal year 2022-2023 at its quarterly meeting on Friday. The amount represents a 17.53 percent increase over the 2021-2022 fiscal year appropriation.
Throughout the two-day budget hearings, institutional representatives voiced the need for funding to attract and retain qualified faculty and staff, citing issues of wage cuts in an increasingly competitive market. Institutional representatives also expressed continued need for capital improvements and infrastructure upgrades in the Covid-19 environment.
“The operations of colleges and universities in the state have been extremely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said ACHE Executive Director Jim Purcell. Finance Committee Chairman Stan Nelson said the budget hearings provided invaluable insight into the diverse needs of institutions.
“Institutions are facing an increased technological demand to move to more online education and an increased need for need-based financial assistance,” said Nelson.
Lawmakers will convene the 2022 session on January 11, and Purcell will present the budget request to members of budget committees this afternoon. To solve the financial aid problem, ACHE wants a five percent increase over last year for the Alabama student aid program. This would equate to $ 7,641,040 available in the state assistance program as needed.
Another request for financial assistance will be for additional funds for the FAFSA Completion Project. Beginning in May 2022, graduates of Alabama public high schools will be required to complete the FAFSA form to determine their eligibility for Federal Pell Grants. ACHE provides an online tool for the secure mapping and distribution of student-level data to increase FAFSA completions. $ 500,000 is requested to cover ongoing costs associated with the initiative.
ACHE maintains the Alabama State Student Database, which now has over 13 million student records. Many reports are generated from the database for educators and businesses / industries. A report identifies the best producers in public institutions for bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate. In addition to these degree holders, short term certificates are required for industry recognized degrees.
ACHE is requesting $ 1,000,000 to support the development of these short-term certificates that can be incorporated into existing academic and professional programs or serve as a stand-alone study program available to people seeking to enhance their professional skills.
All institutions are budgeted for increased income, but at different growth rates.
The University of West Alabama’s recommended budget increased by the highest percentage, increasing 22.86% to $ 26,556,088. The University of Troy also experienced substantial growth with an increase of 21.15% to $ 74,963,988.
The school with the least increase in recommended income is the state of Alabama with growth of 13.81% for a budget of $ 59,706,371.
Purcell said there were several factors driving which institutions grew more than others, including three-year average enrollments and weighted credit hours.