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The high and rising cost of higher education

By Staff
May 19, 2002
The basic cost of a college education at Mississippi's eight institutions of higher learning has risen 23 percent in the last two years. The most recent tuition hike approved by the state College Board last week, 8 percent beginning this fall, will simply price some students out of the market.
Tuitions at Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss will still be the highest, with Ole Miss leading the pack at $3,916 per year. Other costs, such as room and board, will go up, too.
College Board president Bill Crawford described the tuition increases as "a very difficult decision to make" and "a tough balancing act." We have no doubt that's true and we understand the financial bind in which Mississippi's higher education system finds itself.
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. The amendment stated that 5 percent of the increase will be held in reserve to help guard against possible future cuts.
This compromise may help the situation, but given the state's stagnant economic growth and revenue collections, it is likely that another tuition hike will have to be considered next year, too.
Where is our state-supported system of higher education headed? How high can tuitions rise before college is simply eliminated as an option? How many more cuts can be made before the quality of education, at whatever cost, slips?
Locally, the worry is acute. While he welcomes the additional revenue, Dr. Dennis Mitchell, interim dean of MSU-Meridian Campus, said it will only help maintain the status quo. His fear is that MSU's non-traditional students, many of whom pay their own way, will be hit the hardest.
It seems reasonable to expect that the overall budget crunch could eventually have a negative impact not only on enrollment but also on other projects in which MSU is involved in Meridian.
It is a dilemma, likely to get worse before it gets better.