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ACHE recommends $207 million budget increase

The Alabama Commission on Higher Education approved a $2.36 billion budget recommendation Friday.

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The Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) approved a $2.36 billion budget recommendation Friday for Alabama’s public two- and four-year institutions for FY 2023-24. The recommendation represents a $207.15 million increase over the FY 2022-23 appropriation.

ACHE is required by law to present a Consolidated Budget Recommendation (CBR) for the institutions to the governor and legislature each year. Last month institutional representatives had an opportunity to discuss their proposed budgets with ACHE’s finance committee members.

Some of the areas of need included personnel and salary issues, increased mandatory costs related to retirement and insurance, rising inflationary costs related to utilities and construction and deferred maintenance and building renovation.

“The operations of the state’s colleges and universities are facing new challenges in today’s world, such as competing with remote work opportunities in addition to salary compression,” said ACHE Executive Director Jim Purcell.

Finance Committee Chairman Stan Nelson said the budget hearings reiterated the strains inflationary costs are putting on public education. “Institutions told us they completed the study phase of construction, and several months later when work began, the quote had increased by several million dollars,” Nelson said.

When Purcell presents ACHE’s budget recommendation to lawmakers next year, there will be a $5 million additional request for deferred maintenance projects at the colleges and universities. The money will be earmarked for repairs on existing facilities, not any new construction. “We will be asking the institutions to prioritize their maintenance needs with health and safety being of primary concern,” Purcell said.

ACHE has saturated the state with the All-in Alabama campaign that focuses on job opportunities for recent four-year graduates. 

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“As a business owner, I am excited to see Alabama’s workforce being filled with our state’s college graduates,” said ACHE Chair Miranda Frost.

As part of All-in Alabama, ACHE is looking for $6 million from the legislature to support the (Re)Engage Alabama campaign that targets adults who stopped out of college before completing their degree. The majority of the money ($4.5 million) would be used for student financial aid for adults completing a degree related to fields on the State’s Critical Occupations list. In addition to these degree-holders, short-term certificates are needed for industry-recognized credentials. ACHE is requesting $1 million 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.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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