The cost of a college education in Mississippi will be a bit more expensive this fall. On Thursday, the state college board approved almost a seven percent increase in tuition fees. It also okayed a plan to raise room and board bills. And it ratified a $45 fuel charge.
Incoming freshmen and their families will feel the pinch from the added education bills.
On Thursday morning, some of those college bound students were at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. More than 20 Long Beach seniors were about to practice a walk every high school senior relishes. As "Pomp and Circumstance" played over the arena's sound system, the seniors rehearsed for their high school graduation.
Krista Clark will be on the front row at Thursday night's ceremony.
"It's pretty awesome. We waited a long time for this. So it feels good," she said.
Jonathan Jones was a couple of seats down from her.
"I'm ready for a free summer," he said. "And I can't wait until college starts. Never been able to say that about school. But, I'm really looking forward to it."
But the freshman to be at USM isn't looking forward to are his growing college bills. While Jones and his Long Beach classmates rehearsed for their evening exercise, the state college board sat in a room 160 miles away and voted 11-1 to raise in-state tuition at Mississippi's eight public universities nearly seven percent.
"It's horrible," said Jones.
His classmate Martin McCoy said the seven percent tuition hike "wouldn't be good." McCoy is going to Mississippi State this fall.
"I've got a scholarship. But it's not enough to cover the whole thing."
Despite a $90 million boost in state funding this year, Mississippi's colleges asked for tuition hikes, because as one president said, universities have to be realistic about what it costs to provide opportunities for their students.
What that means for the graduates heading to in state colleges is a few hundred dollars a year more out of their pockets.
"That's ridiculous," Jones said when he heard about the tuition hike.
He quickly realized any tuition concerns he had could wait a few days. This was graduation day for Long Beach's class of 2007. And it was time to celebrate.
According to the college board, tuition will go up an average of $300 a year. Media reports indicate the average tuition for a Mississippi student attending one of the state's eight public universities is just more than $4,500 a year.