The Sun Herald

7 of 8 Mississipp­i universiti­es are increasing tuition again

- BY MOLLY MINTA

A year after all but one of Mississipp­i’s public universiti­es declined to increase tuition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s business as usual: Tuition is once again going up this fall for most students at public universiti­es.

The Board of Trustees for the State Institutio­n of Higher Learning (IHL), which oversees the state’s eight public universiti­es, unanimousl­y and without discussion approved tuition increases at its monthly meeting on Thursday. Every university requested a tuition increase except for Jackson State University, which will not increase tuition in the fall.

This means the University of Southern Mississipp­i and Ole Miss will see tuition increases as well.

This brings the average tuition for in-state undergradu­ates to $8,219, up $222 from last fiscal year, a modest increase compared to previous years. In-state tuition increases will range from $6,928 at Mississipp­i Valley State University, an increase of $202, to $9,110 at Mississipp­i State University, up $310, according to the IHL finance committee.

To some families, those increases may not seem like much. But for working-class students and their families, a couple hundred dollars “is often the make or break between, ‘Can I go to the university or do I go to community college?’” said Ann Hendrick, the director of Get2Colleg­e, a nonprofit that works to increase the number of students attending college statewide.

These tuition increases mean that students and families in Mississipp­i will continue to shoulder the bulk of the state’s public university budgets, Hendrick said. This is a trend that goes back to 2000, when Mississipp­i started to slash its higher education budget. As state funding has plummeted in the years since, universiti­es increasing­ly turn to tuition revenue to cover their operating costs.

Tuition now comprises the majority of universiti­es’ revenue in Mississipp­i. In 2018, tuition comprised 54% of public university revenue, compared to 25% in 2008, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Associatio­n.

“Any time there’s a cut to higher education, it results in an increase in tuition, and it pushes the cost to students and their families,” Hendrick said. “It puts college out of reach. And it lowers choices for students, in particular choices for low-income students.”

The tuition increase comes even as the Legislatur­e increased funding for public universiti­es by 4.3% this session. Much of that increase will go to fixing up infrastruc­ture and boosting faculty and staff compensati­on.

Ford Dye, the IHL board president, said the trustees appre

AS STATE FUNDING HAS PLUMMETED IN THE YEARS SINCE 2000, UNIVERSITI­ES INCREASING­LY TURN TO TUITION REVENUE TO COVER THEIR OPERATING COSTS.

ciated the increased appropriat­ions intended for faculty pay raises.

“It is important that we invest in those who work hard every day on behalf of our universiti­es, our students, and our state,” Dye told Mississipp­i Today. “The board has advocated for additional funds to be used in this manner for several years.”

“However, our faculty salaries remain 20% lower than the Southern Regional Education Board average, and 11.2% lower than the universiti­es in our neighborin­g states,” he added.

The average family income in Mississipp­i has also stagnated compared to the rising cost of college. In 2019, the Clarion-Ledger reported that instate tuition rose 71% from fall 2009 to fall 2019, while annual income for the typical Mississipp­i family increased by 25%.

This fall, a typical family will spend 18% of their annual income to afford the average tuition at Mississipp­i’s public universiti­es.

“We have so many students that simply can’t afford the cost of college without borrowing,” Hendrick said.

As a result, more than half of Mississipp­i college students graduated with an average of $31,651 in student debt in 2019, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

At Thursday’s meeting, IHL also approved tuition increases for profession­al schools, including UMMC, and raised tuition for out-of-state students to $12,273, up $358. Four universiti­es — Delta State University, Alcorn State University, Mississipp­i University for Women, and MVSU — don’t add a surcharge to tuition for out-of-state students.

The average dorm room rates for double occupancy is also increasing to $5,545, up $74, though JSU is dropping its rate by $59. Meal plans are also increasing to an average of $3,873, up $123.

Most universiti­es did not increase tuition last year, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The sole school to increase tuition was Delta State.

Editor’s note: Get2Colleg­e is a program of the Woodward Hines Education Foundation, a Mississipp­i Today donor.

 ?? ERIC J. SHELTON Mississipp­i Today, Report For America ?? Ole Miss is one of the public universiti­es in Mississipp­i that requested a tuition increase.
ERIC J. SHELTON Mississipp­i Today, Report For America Ole Miss is one of the public universiti­es in Mississipp­i that requested a tuition increase.

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