The Alabama Commission on Higher Education approved a $2.01 billion budget recommendation for Alabama’s public two- and four-year institutions for FY 2022-23 at its quarterly meeting Friday. The amount represents a 17.53 percent increase over the FY 2021-22 appropriation.
Throughout the two-day budget hearings, institutional representatives expressed the necessity for funding to attract and retain qualified faculty and staff, citing salary compression issues in an increasingly competitive market. Institutional representatives also expressed ongoing needs for capital improvements and infrastructure upgrades in the Covid-19 environment.
“The operations of the state’s colleges and universities have been extremely impacted 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 varying needs of the institutions.
“Institutions are being faced with greater technology demands to shift to more online education and a greater need for need-based financial aid,” Nelson said.
Lawmakers will convene the 2022 session on January 11 and Purcell will present the budget request to members of the budget committees that afternoon. To address the financial aid issue, ACHE wants a five percent increase over last year for the Alabama Student Assistance Program. This would equate to $7,641,040 available in the state need-based aid program.
Another financial aid request will be for additional funds for the FAFSA Completion Project. Effective May 2022, graduates from Alabama’s 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 matching and distribution of student-level data to increase FAFSA completions. $500,000 is being requested to address ongoing costs associated with the initiative.
ACHE maintains the Alabama Statewide Student Database, which now has over 13 million student records. Numerous reports are generated from the database for educators and business/industry. One report identifies top producers at public institutions in bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. In addition to these degree-holders, short-term certificates are needed for industry-recognized credentials.
ACHE is requesting $1,000,000 to support the development of these short-term certificates that may be incorporated into existing academic and vocational programs or serve as a stand-alone curriculum available to individuals seeking to enhance their work skills.
All institutions are budgeted to have increased revenue, but at different rates of growth.
The University of West Alabama’s recommended budget increased by the highest percentage, growing 22.86 percent to $26,556,088. Troy University also grew substantially with a 21.15% increase to $74,963,988.
The school to increase the least in recommended revenue is Alabama State with a 13.81 percent growth to a budget of $59,706,371.
Purcell said there were multiple factors guiding which institutions grew more than others, including three-year average enrollment and weighted credit hours.