Jones addresses enrollment, budget during Fall Assembly
By Scott Harvey
Commerce – The A&M-Commerce family welcomed the largest freshmen class in the University's history Thursday morning during the annual Pride Walk.
The event, which takes place along the Walking Mall on the east end of campus, was preceded by the annual Fall Assembly inside the Ferguson Social Sciences Building.
Enrollment was certainly addressed, as President Dan Jones indicated the count was at 10,363 as of Thursday morning. That number will continue to rise, according to Dr. Jones, as nearly 200 international students will register following Friday's orientation.
As it currently stands, the University will experience the highest enrollment growth within the A&M System.
"A point of pride for our entire institution if these numbers hold, and we expect them to, we should have the highest enrollment growth of any university within the A&M System. Which is a good place for us to be," said Dr. Jones.
He also mentioned improvements in residential life population, plus an increase to 47.5 percent of faculty and staff members contributing to the University through Bridge Builders.
Funding at A&M-Commerce, however, may continue to take a hit; given the state's projected budget shortfall. In the spring, the University returned approximately $3.2 million to the state after cutting five percent of its budget, a mandate of all state entities.
Dr. Jones stated Thursday that the state has instructed state entities to provide budget scenarios based on additional cuts in two additional five percent increments. That indicates the budget for the next biennium could be 15 percent less than the current operating budget.
"In dollar terms the figure could approach $10 million," Jones said. "An amount that cannot be identified by reducing cell phone and copier usage."
Jones said it won't be clear for several months how the situation will actually turn out. However, there are several factors working in the University's favor.
He provided examples such as an increase in capital improvements of nearly $100 million over the past five years, plus the addition of six new degree programs in the past year, among others.
Complete audio of Thursday's Fall Assembly is available at the top of the page.