Tuition Hike At USM, JSU Put On Hold

The state College Board put off Thursday a decision on raising tuition at the University of Southern Mississippi and Jackson State University .

A tuition task force on Wednesday had recommended raising fees beyond the 8 percent increase already approved for all eight public universities. College Board members said they wanted to study the issue and would likely make a decision at the July meeting.

"This is not going to be implemented until January,'' said board member Bill Crawford of Meridian. "There's adequate time to discuss this. I see no sense of urgency.''

Crawford said the two schools could make plans that would stand with or without the additional money.

"It's not going to make a major impact on either institution,'' he said.

Higher Education Commissioner Tom Layzell had recommended an additional $150 increase for Jackson State and $85 for Southern Miss, effective in January, the midway point in the 2002-03 academic year.

"The tuition increase will correct some past inequities at these two universities concerning athletic fees,'' Layzell said prior to Thursday's meeting. "By making the increase midyear, this will give parents and students more time to adjust their budgets.''

During the discussion, Jackson State President Ronald Mason Jr. was asked if putting off a decision would impact his planning.

"Obviously, the sooner we know the better,'' Mason said.

Southern Mississippi President Shelby Thames said his school can't make any plans for about 30 days, so "we'll go with what we have.''

Mason and Thames have said they need the additional tuition hike to make up for recent budget cuts.

Board member Virginia Newton of Gulfport had supported an immediate decision. However, after hearing from the two university leaders, Newton she felt they would be able to deal with the situation.

If the recommended increases had been approved, tuition would go up 13 percent at JSU and 10 percent at USM. Layzell said it was best to hold off until January for the extra hikes at JSU and USM to give students and parents more time to prepare for the higher costs.

Board members expect to be facing more tuition increases again next year because of further state budget cuts.

Tuition has gone up at Mississippi universities four of the past five years.