Tuition could creep up again for students at Mississippi’s public universities entering the 2019 academic year.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning unanimously approved on Thursday to raise public universities’ tuition by an average of 4 percent, or about $309, in academic year 2019. A final vote on the increase can take place after a 30-day review period.

Tuition increases throughout the system could range from $128 at Mississippi Valley State University to $406 at The University of Southern Mississippi, according to IHL.

At the meeting, Mark E. Keenum, president of Mississippi State University, said increasing tuition would not be necessary if the state funded its universities at the same level as they did fiscal year 2016, so they would be able to cover inflation costs and provide pay raises, he said.

“Obviously, we didn’t receive those type of increases,” Keenum said. “We didn’t get cut, which is a blessing … but it did necessitate us to do a modest increase in our tuition.”

Keenum said two of the past 10 budget cycles did not include a budget cut through the fiscal year.

“It’s been a constant struggle for not only Mississippi State, but for all of our institutions,” Keenum said.

William LaForge, president of Delta State University, also added that universities in surrounding states and in Delta State’s athletic conference operate at times with $2,000 more per student in both tuition and state support.

Last academic year, tuition increases were approved at an average 6.6 percent at the eight universities. According to IHL, tuition fees represent 67 percent of a public university’s overall budget, while state appropriations make up 24 percent.

“We’re doing a lot with less,” LaForge said. “We’re doing a lot right now and managing scarce resources. … Without a pay raise, we are unable to keep good faculty and compete with those surrounding state universities. We are unable to bring to our campuses new faculty. We haven’t had a pay raise at Delta State in three years.”

IHL notes that if 2019 tuition rates are increased from $7,318 to $7,626, Mississippi students still pay less than students in neighboring states, whose tuitions ranged from $7,596 to $9,201 in fiscal year 2017.

“Universities must have the resources necessary to provide quality programs, faculty, services and facilities,” said Dr. Glenn Boyce, IHL commissioner of higher education, in a statement.

Public universities in the state are relying more on tuition rates than state funding. The Hechinger Report reported last week that Mississippi now relies more on tuition revenue than state and local appropriations to fund public higher education.

According to the report, state and local appropriations for each student enrolled full-time in Mississippi universities have decreased by nearly 24 percent compared to pre-recession numbers.