Alcorn State tuition to rise 3 percent; other state universities also announce increases

Published 1:40 pm Thursday, April 19, 2018

JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi’s eight public universities plan to raise tuition by an average of 4 percent next fall, saying lingering effects from state budget cuts two years ago require them to get more revenue from students.

The College Board on Thursday preliminarily approved additional tuition increases at all of the universities. Trustees will vote again next month to finalize the changes.

The statewide average for two semesters of full-time tuition and fees will rise by an average of $302 to $7,805 for in-state undergraduates.

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Increases range from 5.6 percent at Delta State University to 2 percent at Mississippi Valley State University.

At Alcorn State University tuition will rise 3 percent to $7,114, including a $30-a-year activities fee.

Universities are scheduled to get $85 million less in state money in the 2019 budget year beginning July 1 than they did in the 2016 budget year. Total spending will rise about 1 percent next year, but will remain 11 percent below 2016 levels.

Delta State President Bill LaForge said employees have gone three years without a pay raise. He said Delta State had to raise tuition again “just to keep our heads above water.”

“We just have to do it, it’s the cost of business,” LaForge said. “We have to keep our faculty. I’m losing faculty.”

LaForge said Delta State would use part of the $585,000 in projected revenue to grant “a very modest pay raise.”

Students interviewed Wednesday at Jackson State University, where the school merged departments and laid off employees last year because of a financial crisis, voiced concerns about paying more and getting less.

“That’s a lot of money when you’re in debt,” said Zela Willis, a sophomore accounting major from Tulsa, Oklahoma. “If the tuition is going up, is the morale on campus, is our living going to go up? Is that going to improve?”

Timothy Young, a senior from Jackson majoring in marketing, said even a small increase can matter.

“It’s not as steep as I was assuming it was going to be,” Young said. “Still, I know people who struggle to pay what they do, so $500 is a push. It seems a bit unnecessary.”

Tuition will also rise for out-of-state students and at professional schools. At three universities — Delta State, Mississippi Valley and Alcorn State University, undergraduates from outside Mississippi pay the in-state rate as a way to recruit more out-of-state students. Trustees on Thursday approved the Mississippi University for Women’s plans to go to a similar structure where all students pay the in-state rate.

Nearly 80 percent of Mississippi students don’t pay the sticker price, thanks to federal, state and college-based aid. In 2015-2016, Mississippi university undergraduates typically got about $7,350 worth of aid, federal figures show. That covered about one-third of the total cost of attendance for on-campus students, including, tuition, room and board, books and transportation.

However, rising college costs are far outstripping stagnant family incomes. In-state tuition will have risen 65 percent from fall 2008 to fall 2018, while the typical Mississippi family’s yearly income has risen 15 percent during that time. It now takes nearly one-fifth of a typical family’s yearly income to pay the full price of tuition at a Mississippi public university.

More students are borrowing to pay for school. The Institute for College Access and Success reports about 60 percent of graduates from the state’s eight public universities had debt when they collected a diploma in 2015-2016, with the typical borrower graduating nearly $30,000 in debt, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.