April 19, 2019 10:11:03 AM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
Students at Mississippi University for Women will see an 8.4 percent increase in base tuition this fall.
With eight public universities raising tuition, MUW had the steepest percentage hike. According to the Associated Press, The Institutions of Higher Learning board gave universities the final approval for their planned tuition increases, forgoing the normal procedure dictating trustees to hold another vote.
The average tuition hike among the state's eight public universities is 4 percent. AP reports Mississippi State University will raise its tuition by 3 percent.
At MUW, yearly tuition for a full-time student will increase by $585 -- from $6,940 to $7,525. That still ranks as third lowest among Mississippi public universities, ahead of Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State. MSU's yearly tuition will increase by $260, from $8,650 to $8,910.
MUW President Nora Miller said although on paper the university is increasing tuition by 8.4 percent, that isn't an entirely accurate characterization. For instance, a $25 per credit hour "online fee" that has been charged to every student separate from tuition will now be rolled in, accounting for the bulk of the increase.
"The increase in our tuition appears to be $585 per year, but $365 of that is just reclassification," Miller said. "It's really just a 3-percent increase of base tuition."
Although state appropriations to public universities saw an increase of $38 million for the upcoming year, all eight public universities will increase tuition costs, according to AP. Miller told The Dispatch those increased state funds largely cover employee costs, rather than yearly increases on instruction.
"It's to offset the increased costs for a lot of our software and a lot of our contracts," Miller told The Dispatch. "The costs of things are just going up. The increase we are receiving form the Legislature covers our increased premiums, health insurance and retirements, but it doesn't cover the basic cost of everything that's going up."
AP reports college costs have risen 71 percent since fall 2009. For Mississippi families, income has only increased 25 percent in that same span. Between that gap and tuition continuing to increase, some students may face hardships funding education.
Logan Suggs, a MUW sophomore majoring in history, has a partial scholarship as an Owls baseball player. With the tuition increase, Suggs, who is paying what isn't covered by the scholarship himself, said he'll likely look for additional scholarships on campus to weather the increase.
"I have student loans and scholarships," Suggs said. "Hopefully I can get more scholarships to cover more, but if not I will make do with my student loans."
Suggs noted those without scholarships or financial aid may be put in a pinch for those funds.
"If you're paying out-of-pocket, it's a lot to pay when you're not expecting it," he said. "I do have a few friends that are paying as they go, and this would be a lot for them."
Freshman speech pathology major Aja Hudson does not have a scholarship and relies on her family for support.
"For some people that don't have a lot of money, this will be a big impact, but for those that have scholarships, they'll be OK," Hudson said. "I'm not on a scholarship though, so I guess my mom will have to pay (the increase)."
Like Hudson, Lauren Duckworth, a freshman English major, said her parents subsidize tuition costs.
"My parents pay for me," Duckworth said. "I'm sure they aren't going to be thrilled about it, but I still need to go to school."
Miller added she hopes the increase will not be a huge burden on students, but it was a decision the university needed to make.
"We wanted to keep it as low as possible, but also realizing we do have an increased cost of doing business," Miller told The Dispatch. "We are more reliant on tuition than we are on state appropriations. Certainly a larger (tuition) increase would help us more, but we wanted to keep this as affordable as possible for our students. We felt this was a responsible increase."
MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said the tuition increases are due, in part, to a drop in the percentage of MSU's funding that has come from the state of Mississippi. As costs rise and state funding remains flat or falls, Salter said, it creates a need for additional funding sources to make up the gap.
While other sources such as grants and donations can help, they can't fill the gap entirely.
"For good or ill, the model of higher education finance in Mississippi centers on state appropriations and tuition," Salter said. "The percentage that is state funding has been declining steadily over the past quarter century. That puts more pressure on tuition, which is paid by students and their families.
"We have to look at the expenses of delivering high-quality education and the resources and facilities to do that," Salter later added. "It's unfortunate that this puts pressure on the university's students."
Some MSU students don't see the logic behind the tuition increase. Senior Angelique Mickens calls the increase absurd for students to pay.
"I think it's ridiculous that tuition is going up," she said.
Wynton Johnson, a freshman, said with the increase, some potential students might not attend college.
"I don't see why it's going up," Johnson said. "We're already paying enough for going to a state school and it's not like we're getting more benefits."
Kevin Doran, another MSU freshman, said he wasn't thrilled about the increase either.
"It's kind of rough," he said. "I'm from out of state and came here because it wasn't as expensive as other places. But it's still not what I like to hear."
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