By NATHAN GREGORY
The cost of a college education at a Mississippi public university has jumped once again.
The increase, approved Monday by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees, will affect all eight public universities in the state by an average of 8.5 percent.
Tuition at Mississippi State University will increase 7.9 percent for the 2012-13 school year.
MSU Provost Jerry Gilbert said Mississippi Valley State University will see the smallest increase at 7.6 percent, while Mississippi University for Women will see the largest hike in the state at 9 percent.
The 2011-12 undergraduate tuition rate for full-time, in-state students at MSU was $5,805 per academic year. A 7.9 percent increase changes that to $6,284. Rates for out-of-state students added to the new standard tuition price will increase from $8,865 to $9,564, meaning they would pay $15,848 in total tuition per academic year, a $1,178 difference from 2011-12.
The increase will take effect July 1.
Gilbert said the tuition hike was finalized in light of a decrease in state appropriations, and though MSU asked for a 6 percent increase, the state College Board approved the final 7.9 figure. He said despite the increase, he does not anticipate a slowing down of projected enrollment growth in the near future.
“We would anticipate a decrease if we were the only institution raising tuition,” Gilbert said, “(but) we’re toward the bottom end in terms of the increase. It’s unfortunate that we’re having to raise tuition to cope with reduced funding, but it’s a reality we face to be able to deliver the programs at a consistent quality level we would like for our students.”
Statistics compiled by the IHL indicate tuition rates at Mississippi Public Universities are 78 percent of the national average. State tuition rates increased between $437 (Delta State University) and $502 (University of Southern Mississippi).
“In (fiscal year) 2000, 56 percent of the universities’ budgets was comprised of state appropriations and 32 percent was comprised of tuition dollars,” IHL states in the report. “By FY 2012, those percentages were reversed, with 57 percent of the budget comprised of tuition dollars and 37 percent coming from state appropriations.”
Phil Bonfanti, MSU executive director of enrollment, said he is also optimistic the university will only feel minimal impact from the increase.
“The university is sensitive to the cost of getting a college education. As a land-grant, public institution, we remain affordable to the population of the state as a whole. We have to have this increase to offset budget cuts and continue to offer the quality of education the expect to get from a large public institution,” Bonfanti said. “We know many parents are planning for a college education (for their children). When they plan for increases … we plan for it, too, and try to do other things to help keep the costs more manageable. We look at it as a partnership. Those students with great academic promise, we begin to invest in them. The parents are investing money in their student, but we invest in them as well. We’re trying to keep costs other than tuition manageable and flexible.”
Bonfanti said despite the increase, MSU is still one of the most financially accommodating among public land grant institutions.
“Even with ours going up … we’re still below the national land grant average and equal to or lower than our neighboring states in terms of tuition. One of the things we wanted to keep in mind was what the national average was,” he said.