DSU pushes for big hike in subsidy

DOVER — Delaware State University is again making a huge monetary ask in its request to the Joint Committee on Capital Improvement, and its president is suggesting lawmakers abandon the existing system of funding the state’s three public higher education institutions at the same level in the capital bond bill.

DSU administrators on Wednesday urged the committee to increase 15-fold the sum to be allocated to the university for the fiscal year starting July 1. Under Gov. John Carney’s January budget recommendations, Delaware State University would receive $7 million, as would the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College.

But Wilma Mishoe believes DSU is deserving of much more, formally asking the committee for almost $106 million.

“Delaware State is as fine an institution as any of the others,” she told reporters after the budget hearing. “We’ve been here for 128 years and for us to still be in the condition that we’re in in terms of the funding and so forth begs the question: Why not Delaware State University? What about us?”

DSU sought $100 million last year for capital needs but ended up getting just 10 percent of that. UD and DelTech also received $10 million apiece for capital projects, which are funded separately from the general operating budget.

While it’s a certainty Delaware State will not get anywhere close to its requested sum – doing so would represent an increase of nearly 15 percent in the recommended bond bill, which totals nearly $679 million – Dr. Mishoe described DSU’s needs as great.

Deferred maintenance on campus has reached $250 million, according to the university, with new roofs, windows and lighting among the needs. Most of DSU’s ask would go to various campus improvements, including $77 million for energy and sustainability initiatives.

The state’s three public higher-education institutions have received the same amount of capital funding every year since 1997, but presidents of at least two of those support changing the system.

Last week, after strong lobbying from DelTech officials, the Senate passed legislation that recommends the General Assembly allocate $10 million per year over five years for an infrastructure fund within the college and fully meet DelTech’s capital needs. DelTech projects it will have $101 million in deferred maintenance by 2020 if nothing changes, with one senator last week calling it a “crisis.”

The bill, which still must go through the House, is nonbinding, meaning lawmakers could choose to give DelTech the same (or less) than UD and DSU.

Dr. Mishoe, meanwhile, stumped for an increased allocation for her university Wednesday. Asked after the budget hearing if the current distribution is outdated, she agreed it is.

“If we had started out all equal, then equal, equal, equal may work. We never have started out equal,” she said.

Investments in DSU pay off for the state, said Dr. Mishoe, who was selected as president in June after spending six months in an interim role. During her presentation to the committee, she noted the university’s retention rate of 73 percent is above the state average and touted the $22 million going to research. Both marks are records for DSU.

The University of Delaware, which also presented Wednesday, asked the committee for $10 million to address its own deferred maintenance backlog, which President Dennis Assanis said totals $435 million.

UD officials requested lawmakers increase the Higher Education Economic Development Investment Fund to $20 million as well. Started this fiscal year with about $11.4 million, the fund would receive $15 million under the governor’s budget proposal.

Dr. Assanis declined to answer questions after the presentation, citing meetings.

The third higher education institution (and the first to come before the committee Wednesday), DelTech, asked for about $13.8 million, most of which would go to critical maintenance.

For DSU, one portion of its request perhaps takes on greater urgency than the rest. Included in the sought-after sum is $5 million that would be earmarked for a new building for the College of Agriculture, Science & Technology. The federal government has earmarked $7 million for the facility but only if the state contributes $5 million.

Should Delaware fail to provide that sum over the next two years, the federal funding may be revoked. The university has been waiting for the state match for 12 years, according to administrators.

“I’m getting a little bit nervous, more nervous now than ever before that that is a possibility, which is why we have continued to make it a priority,” Dr. Mishoe said. “When you know you have a pot of money and you know you have a need that’s growing larger every year, we have to make that ask.”

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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