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Waiver will help MUW attract out-of-state students

 

Carmen K. Sisson

 

Tuition will be a little cheaper beginning in January for qualifying students at Mississippi University for Women.  

 

The state College Board Thursday approved MUW's request to offer out-of-state tuition waivers for non-Mississippi residents who live within a 50-mile radius of the institution as well as for students who meet other special criteria. 

 

Alcorn State, located in Loman, also received permission Thursday to implement the plan. Jackson State University was approved in June.  

 

A new law, signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in April and effective July 1, allows the state's colleges and universities to take advantage of a recruitment strategy already employed in neighboring states -- permission to offer in-state tuition to students who live just across state lines.  

 

Before the College Board's final approval this week, MUW could only lure out-of-state students by offering scholarships to offset the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition, which can sometimes be considerable.  

 

MUW's current in-state undergraduate tuition is $5,316 per year or two full-time semesters. Out-of-state tuition and fees for a year is $14,484. Tuition increases went into effect July 1 for Mississippi's eight public universities. MUW's tuition rose by nine percent, and Alcorn State increased 8.9 percent. 

 

The University of Alabama has offered in-state tuition to residents of Lowndes and Noxubee counties for some time, touting the cost-savings on its website.  

 

Now, MUW will be able to offer the same bargain to students from four nearby Alabama counties -- Lamar, Pickens, Fayette and Tuscaloosa -- as well as to students in Baldwin, Jefferson, Mobile, Shelby and Walker counties in Alabama and students in the Tennessee counties of Fayette, Shelby and Tipton.  

 

MUW also has permission to offer waivers to students with regional scholarships who maintain satisfactory academic progress and the children of alumni, regardless of where they live.  

 

The W has been hoping for this plan more than four years, MUW President Dr. Jim Borsig said today. Though an original draft had limited colleges to offer the deal only to out-of-state students within a 50-mile radius, the final draft provided much more flexibility, allowing MUW to also use it as a recruitment tool to solicit students from distant cities like Memphis and Birmingham.  

 

"We're very excited this got approved, especially for (students in) counties immediately on the state line that are really part of the Golden Triangle economy," Borsig said. "This will help strengthen the economic development of the Golden Triangle. Our first step is using the flexibility to aggressively recruit those markets where we have had success recruiting students in the past." 

 

Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Mississippi colleges' push for the waiver is a result of declining state funding and the need to raise enrollment.  

 

The full extent of the waiver's impact is not likely to be felt at MUW until this fall due to the College Board's late approval of their request, although Borsig said students who transfer for the Spring 2013 semester will be the first to receive the benefits.  

 

"We're excited about the possibilities," Borsig said.  

 

Tuition rates have risen 65 percent over the past decade, but Mississippi universities are still about 30 percent cheaper than those in the rest of the nation, according to The Associated Press.

 

Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.

 

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