Cost of attending college in Mississippi surges again

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Mississippi’s public universities will increase tuition to compensate for state budget cuts and increasing costs to maintain academic programs, technology and faculty on campuses.

Rates already were scheduled to go up 3.8 percent on average this fall. On Thursday, the College Board added to that amount, raising the tuition increase to an average 6.6 percent at the eight universities this fall.

According to the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the statewide average for two semesters of full-time tuition and fees will rise by an average of $454 to $7,413. Increases range from 5 percent at Jackson State University and Mississippi Valley State University to 9.2 percent at Mississippi University for Women.

James Borsig, president, Mississippi University for Women

At MUW, president James Borsig said the university has increased its tuition rates four of the last seven years.

Planning for tuition increases is a regular part of administration strategy to forecast what the school’s needs would be years in the future, Borsig said, so schools can provide a balance of student access, affordability and resources.

However, Thursday’s additional increase to already-rising tuition rates scheduled for fall 2017 is larger than what he and his colleagues forecast three years ago. The university’s additional increase totals $251 more per student per year, bringing next fall’s total increase to $549 per student.

“Making the decision to request tuition increases is one of the hardest decisions to make,” Borsig said. “Students enroll to the university because of the quality of the academic programs they are enrolling in, and being able to make sure that our students are prepared the day they step foot off this campus with that college degree no matter their field is the definition of quality.”

As in many states across the country, Borsig said, Mississippi’s public universities are generally underfunded to meet the price of maintaining their programs, as both student enrollment and the cost of operating an institution goes up.

“I would like to be able to hold the line on tuition, but, at the same time, we have the responsibility to maintain quality,” Borsig said.

To meet demands, Borsig said, the university in past years went from four to three academic colleges, eliminated an academic dean position, combined offices and functions, and left positions vacant when it could.

“Those are kinds of things we have to do,” Borsig said. “At the same time, we’ve got to meet the needs of our students. Our enrollment continues to be strong here, our student are graduating at the highest numbers in the history of university. We’re doing the same things most people are.”

William Bynum, president, Mississippi Valley State University

Mississippi Valley State University president William Bynum said the university has been “extremely mindful” of its students and their socioeconomic status. Students will pay $306 more per year beginning this fall.

“For two years, we did not have an increase,” Bynum said in an email. “Our students are the highest Pell Grant recipients in the system.”

Bynum said this latest increase will help mitigate against changes in class availability or size, and will forestall personnel actions such as furlough days.

At Mississippi State University, spokesman Sid Salter said budget cuts also impact the university’s ability to maintain quality, yet it is something the administration has been dealing with since the Great Recession of 2008.

“Our students, their parents — the folks who are bearing the weight of tuition — they have an expectation for the same level of quality at Mississippi State and other Mississippi institutions that those students would find at peer institutions across state lines,” Salter said.

“Our resources have a direct impact on those expectations. (MSU president) Dr. Keenum frequently tells groups he speaks to, no one has approached him and asked to reduce the level of quality available to our students at State. There is that expectation.”

Tuition and fees at Mississippi public universities

Cost includes fall and spring semesters and the percentage change from the current academic year:

$6,422

Mississippi Valley State University, up 5 percent (includes a $10-a-semester activities fee).

$6,614

Mississippi University for Women, up 9.2 percent (includes a $50-a-semester facilities fee).

$6,859

Delta State University, up 6.9 percent (includes a $60-a-semester facilities fee).

$6,878

Alcorn State University, up 5.1 percent.

$7,621

Jackson State University, up 5 percent (includes a $50-a-semester facilities fee and $10-a-semester activities fee).

$8,190

University of Mississippi Medical Center, up 7.1 percent.

$8,218

University of Southern Mississippi, up 7.3 percent. (includes a $35-a-semester facilities fee and a $20-a-semester activities fee).

$8,300

University of Mississippi, up 7 percent (includes a $50-a-semester facilities fee and a $5-a-semester activities fee).

$8,318

Mississippi State University, up 6.9 percent (includes a $50-a-semester facilities charge and a $5-a-semester activities fee).

Source: Mississippi College Board