College Board Approves Tuition Increase At JSU & USM

The University of Southern Mississippi expects to raise an additional $2.5 million this year from a $184 tuition increase approved Thursday by the State College Board. The board also voted Thursday for a $150 tuition increase at Jackson State University.

The increase should boost revenue by nearly $1 million. The tuition increases take effect in January, the mid-point of an academic year. They are additional to the 8 percent tuition increases approved for all universities this fall.

The College Board approved in the increases at USM and JSU by identical 10-1 votes. Board member Roy Klumb of Gulfport voted against the increases.

USM President Shelby Thames and Jackson State President Ronald Mason have said their schools needed additional funding in tight budget times. Thames said Thursday the university needs additional revenues and incomes just to keep the school operating and could prevent future layoffs.

"We need this money in so many places,'' Thames said. "It's not like we're going to have excess dollars without a home to go to. It may keep us from having to reduce more faculty and staff. We don't want to affect personnel in an adverse way.''

USM laid off 18 staff members last month. Thames said the university needs every dime it can get. The school soon will even start collecting rent from BellSouth. The College Board voted to let BellSouth temporarily place a cell phone tower on the Hattiesburg campus for $500 a month.

Board members said the tuition increases are an "equity issue.'' Jackson State and USM along with Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi are what the board terms "comprehensive'' institutions.

Five years ago, the four had the same tuition. The absence of a recreation center fee at JSU and USM created the tuition gap.

The tuition increase brings USM tuition to $3,873 annually, equal to MSU. After the $150 hike, JSU tuition will still trail MSU and USM rates by $261. Ole Miss has the highest tuition at $3,916.

"What we've done is bring two institutions closer to their counterparts,'' Higher Education Commissioner Tom Layzell said.

Doing that begs the question of whether the board should equalize tuition at all eight universities based on category, Layzell said. Layzell said it's something both the Tuition and Fees Task Force and the board will have to consider in the upcoming months.