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College tuition jumps 8 percent

By Staff
from staff and wire reports
May 17, 2002
JACKSON Tuition at Mississippi's eight public universities will jump 8 percent beginning this fall. State College Board members voted 9-2 Thursday to raise tuition on the recommendation of Higher Education Commissioner Tom Layzell.
Board members Roy Klumb of Gulfport and Scott Ross of West Point voted against the increase. Other members voted for the raise, including Bill Crawford of Meridian.
Crawford, one of four board members who went into the meetings opposing the tuition hike, said he voted for it only after a revenue reserve amendment was added to the proposal.
The amendment stated that 5 percent of the increase will be held in reserve to help guard against possible future cuts.
The 8 percent increase was endorsed by the eight college presidents, although some had hoped for more. The increase ranges between $244 a semester at Mississippi University for Women to $290 at the University of Mississippi.
The board also voted to increase room and board fees and athletic fees.
Local reaction
Local parents of college-bound children say they are disappointed by the board's decision.
Davis said every time the economy stabilizes, prices go up.
Deborah Wilson of Newton agreed.
MSU-Meridian Campus
Dr. Dennis Mitchell, MSU-Meridian's interim dean, said while he is pleased the announced increases will help out with budget shortfalls, he said, "It's always unpleasant to see tuition raised."
Mitchell said higher tuition could hit Meridian students the hardest.
Mitchell said MSU-Meridian's enrollment is holding steady at 700-750 students each fall.
Long-term plan
College Board member Amy Whitten, who introduced the revenue reserve amendment to Layzell's proposal, said the move is a step toward a multi-year tuition plan to address needs at public universities.
I can't vote for 8 percent without some restraints. I don't care if Mississippi as a state wins the international lottery, next year is just going to be bad,'' Whitten said.
We need to hold as much as we can, so that we can increase our options when times get tougher next year,'' she said.
Ross, who voted against the increase, said requiring universities to hold back a large portion of the 8 percent will help schools deal with possible future cuts but it does nothing to help those who have to pay more tuition.
What effect is this going to have the students? I don't see the benefit,'' Ross said.
The long term benefit is what I am looking at,'' Whitten told Ross. I am looking at ways to maintain a base of resources. I'm really truly a lot more concerned about next year.''
Conservative planning
University presidents said they had already planned to reserve a portion of their budgets to cover possible reductions by the governor.
Higher education officials have said they need $40 million to cover the difference between what they requested from lawmakers and what was appropriated to the universities for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
The amount may be a lot more next year, officials say. University presidents said tuition increases were needed to avoid layoffs, larger class sizes and other belt-tightening measures.
I think 8 percent is a reasonable number,'' Layzell told board members before the vote. When there is a decline in state support, we have to offset it by tuition increases.''
The board also decided to form a task force to study the criteria for future tuition increases.
Legislative comment
As the meeting opened Thursday, state Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, asked board members to leave tuition alone.
You have raised it three of the last four years,'' Flaggs said. I am here to tell you that I'll bet my political career that if you raise it this year, you'll raise it next year.''
Flaggs said lawmakers will still be faced with a budget crunch next year and won't raise taxes in an election year.
Last year, the board voted to allow universities to raise tuition up to 15 percent to make up for a $65 million loss in state funding.
By the numbers:
Here's a look at new tuition costs at the eight Mississippi universities, per semester:
Alcorn State University: $3,459
Delta State University: $3,348
Jackson State University: $3,462
Mississippi State University: $3,873
Mississippi University for Women: $3,298
Mississippi Valley State University:$3,411
University of Mississippi: $3,916
University of Southern Mississippi:$3,689
Source: State College Board