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IHL approves tuition increase at 7 of 8 Mississippi universities

By Molly Minta

Mississippi Today

A year after all but one of Mississippi’s public universities declined to increase tuition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s business as usual: Tuition is once again going up this fall for most students at public universities.

The Board of Trustees for the State Institution of Higher Learning (IHL), which oversees the state’s eight public universities, unanimously and without discussion approved tuition increases at its monthly meeting on Thursday. Every university requested a tuition increase except for Jackson State University, which will not increase tuition in the fall.

This brings the average tuition for in-state undergraduates to $8,219, up $222 from last fiscal year, a modest increase compared to previous years. In-state tuition increases will range from $6,928 at Mississippi Valley State University, an increase of $202, to $9,110 at Mississippi State University, up $310, according to the IHL finance committee.

To some families, those increases may not seem like much. But for working-class students and their families, a couple hundred dollars “is often the make or break between, ‘Can I go to the university or do I go to community college?’” said Ann Hendrick, the director of Get2College, a nonprofit that works to increase the number of students attending college statewide.

These tuition increases mean that students and families in Mississippi will continue to shoulder the bulk of the state’s public university budgets, Hendrick said. This is a trend that goes back to 2000, when Mississippi started to slash its higher education budget. As state funding has plummeted in the years since, universities increasingly turn to tuition revenue to cover their operating costs.

Tuition now comprises the majority of universities’ revenue in Mississippi. In 2018, tuition comprised 54% of public university revenue, compared to 25% in 2008, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

“Any time there’s a cut to higher education, it results in an increase in tuition, and it pushes the cost to students and their families,” Hendrick said. “It puts college out of reach. And it lowers choices for students, in particular choices for low-income students.”