Will Raising College Tuition Send Mississippi Students Out Of State?

Students attending Mississippi's private colleges will have to dig a little deeper into their pocketbooks this fall. Several privately funded schools including Belhaven, Tougaloo, Milsaps and Mississippi Collage have announced that they would raise tuition to make up for cuts in state funding.

Mississippi's eight public universities have already announced a 15 percent tuition increase.

The annual tuition at public universities will range from $3,158 to $3,626. Private college costs are much higher. It will cost students at private schools from $6,900 a year at Tougaloo College to $16,546 a year at Millsaps. These figures don't include room and board, which raises the fees even higher.

Biloxi High School senior Heather Duffy plans to head off to Ole Miss this fall. She says higher tuition costs will be an inconvenience. But she doesn't think it will drive Mississippi students out of state.

"I don't think it will, because still even with the increase in tuition, it's still not as expensive in state to pay the out of state tuition cost," Duffy said.

Some educators say they are already starting to see the effects of the tuition hikes. They say because of financial pressures, more and more students who may have wanted to go to four-year universities are instead choosing community college as a more affordable way to further their college education.

"About 75 percent of our students enroll in college, and about 50 percent of those are staying and going to the community college next year because of the price hikes," Biloxi High guidance counselor Pat Abernathy said.

Some students say the increases just mean they may have to work harder to achieve their educational goals.

"Two things could happen," high school senior Grant Patterson said. "People could not go to college, or they could try harder for the scholarships, work harder in high school and try to get the extra scholarships to pay for the 15 percent."

Officials at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College aren't sure just how much tuition hikes at four year colleges have affected their enrollment, since the community college won't start enrolling freshman for a few weeks.

by Danielle Thomas