October 18, 2013 9:27:59 AM
JACKSON -- Tuition is likely to be headed up at five of Mississippi's eight public universities.
The College Board gave preliminary approval to tuition plans for the next two academic years Thursday. The board must vote a second time before the plan becomes final.
Average in-state tuition and fees would rise 2.8 percent to $6,509 in fall 2014. In 2015, average tuition would rise 3 percent to $6,703.
The plans would push tuition above $7,000 a year at the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. The largest increases are at MSU and Ole Miss, which would both raise tuition by roughly 5 percent each year. USM proposes a pair of 3.5 percent increases.
Delta State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Mississippi University for Women plan no increases over the next two years.
Alcorn State University and Jackson State University would also raise tuition, but by smaller percentages than Ole Miss and MSU.
Many students don't pay the sticker price, thanks to federal, state and college-based aid. But tuition charges are increasing much faster than family incomes, and students are generally borrowing more money to attend college.
Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds said Wednesday that some schools are raising prices while others are holding flat because larger institutions still have enough student demand to increase charges.
"Tuition increases are at the research institutions, the only exception being Alcorn, which plans a really minimal increase," Bounds said. "I think it's a market issue. We recognize we can price ourselves out of the market."
Mississippi universities have been using money from tuition increases to meet cuts in state funding since 2010, but also to provide pay increases to faculty members and other employees. Bounds said the pressure to compete with other universities on pay is most intense at Mississippi's larger universities.
"Research institutions, compared to research institutions in other states, are the place where we're seeing the big salary gaps," Bounds said.
The College Board got a modest increase in legislative appropriations this year under a new formula for dispensing state aid to universities. The board is seeking an additional $20 million for the 2015 budget, which the Legislature will write early next year. Bounds said if much more or much less money was appropriated, university presidents could revisit their proposals.