January 12, 2017 in Education, News
By Othor Cain
Things are far different on the campus of Jackson State University (JSU) today, than they were in 1955, when 83 year old Rod Paige graduated. “I’m just amazed everyday that I walk this campus or look out my office window; I think to myself…look at the growth, look at the changes, look at the greatness,” said Paige, who was named interim president of the university in November 2016, after the highly publicized resignation of Carolyn Meyers. Meyers, only the 10th president in the history of the university, which was founded in 1877 and its first full-time female leader, resigned in the fall of 2016, amid rumors of financial unsettlement on the campus.
In a recent discovery, it was revealed that JSU’s cash reserves had plummeted nearly 90 percent in the last five years, going from an estimated $37 million to $4.2 million for the 2016 fiscal year that ended in the fall. Paige, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as the seventh U.S. Secretary of Education, says JSU’s financial troubles are deep and perplexed but fixable. “I want to paint a very clear picture, the hole we find ourselves in today is deep, in fact, I really didn’t understand the magnitude of the problems until I got here, but these problems are fixable and when we come out of this…and we will, we will be a stronger more vibrant university than ever before,” Paige said.
Paige failed to equate or give an exact dollar amount as it relates to the financial deficiencies of the university. “I don’t want to give an exact number and then two-weeks later that number has changed or as we are going through this process we find that the number continues to roll,” he said. “Right now, we know its a serious situation and we know that we’ve got to fix it.” Charged with the responsibility by the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) to improve the financial conditions of the university and to strengthen its academic performance, Paige’s outlook for JSU is bright.
“We are looking at everything to ensure that we are running a tight ship, he said. “All external vendor contracts are being reviewed, right now its safe to say that we’ve pretty much instituted a hiring freeze, we must exam everything.” Examining everything includes looking at JSU’s Madison and downtown campuses. When asked if discussions about closing the Madison campus were underway, in spite of recent record enrollment and the campus doing well, Paige said, “I don’t have the data to support your positive outlook.”
“We are looking at everything and in particular at the recent closure of Tulane in Madison, that conversation is happening now. We want to make sure that all of our ducks are in a row and that we are being as financially responsible as we possibly can.”
Paige understands that getting the community and state involved as well as doing fundraising in a new way is a must for JSU. “Listen I’m indebted to this university, it has had an indelible mark on who I am…its in the heart of Jackson and should be the premier university of this state,” he said.
“We need everybody involved in spreading the good news of JSU, telling those untold stories and raising money for the university.” Despite the governor’s recent assertion that JSU should have its own stadium, Paige said having a stadium was not a top priority for him.
Rod Paige: Jackson State