DSU seeks extra $6.2 million in state budget request

DOVER — Delaware State University is requesting an additional $6.2 million on top of the $34.6 million it was allocated in the governor’s recommended budget.

Thursday, university officials appeared before the Joint Finance Committee to detail the new money they are seeking.

The total earmarked to the school in the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget released in January is nearly identical to the sum provided for DSU the year before. That pales in comparison to the University of Delaware, with DSU’s larger neighbor to the north set to receive $118.9 million in the next budget.

The requested $6.2 million would go to five sources. Priority one for DSU President Harry Williams is salary increases, with the university hoping to gain an extra $2.3 million to provide a 4 percent raise to its 805 employees. Those increases are needed to help the university remain competitive in its pay rates, he said.

Harry Williams

DSU President Harry Williams

Second on the list is $860,000 for a joint engineering technology program with Delaware Technical Community College. That program, a top DSU official said, is all but ready to go as soon as funding is received.

Noureddine Melikechi, the dean of the College of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology, said much of the work to set up the partnership is complete, although funds are needed for two areas — hence the budget request.

Individuals with specifiexpertise will have to be hired. Additionally, the university plans to buy equipment for the related courses.

The joint degree plan would send students to DelTech’s Georgetown campus for two years to begin working on obtaining an engineering technology degree, which Dr. Melikechi said is greatly in demand by employers. After finishing at the community college, students would enter DSU and obtain their bachelor’s in the field.

The idea was proposed by the Delaware STEM Council, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math. The institutions began working on the plan about two years ago, and no additional funding is needed on DelTech’s end.

Dr. Melikechi expects at least 50 students could begin enrolling in the program once it is set up, although he noted that because it has not been marketed to students yet, no exact numbers are known.

“If we do not get the money, I’m not exactly sure how it would go,” he said. “I mean, STEM is expensive. It’s an investment. It has a huge return.”

He is hopeful it can begin in the fall, but that is contingent on receiving funds from the state. If the funds are not available — and many officials, including Gov. Jack Markell and members of JFC, have mentioned how tight money is — the program would be put to the side until DSU can request more money next year.

“Confidence is irrelevant to me. I can’t measure it. It all depends on what happens in terms of reality. If the funds come, yeah, it will happen,” Dr. Melikechi said of his expectations.

The university’s other three priorities include $1.6 million for the Inspire Scholarship program, $1 million for federal matching dollars and $400,000 for the costs of the new optics building.

JFC will continue hearing from state departments throughout the month. The final budget bill will be signed into law in June.

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