University tuition could increase in Mississippi - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

University tuition could increase in Mississippi

Students at Mississippi's eight public

universities might have to dig deeper to pay tuition, under a plan

the state College Board will consider this coming week.

The board will debate increasing tuition by up to 5 percent. The

additional money would help pay for salary raises and cover the

schools' other needs, including the increasing cost of gasoline.

A 5 percent increase would cost a student $150 to $200 more per

semester, or up to $400 annually, higher education leaders said.

University tuition in Mississippi has increased 50 percent since

2000.

The College Board meets Wednesday and Thursday in Jackson. New

tuition rates would take effect in August when students begin

classes for the 2007-08 academic year.

Board finance chairman Aubrey Patterson and Higher Education

Commissioner Tom Meredith said another round of tuition hikes is

needed despite a 14.3 percent budget increase - a jump of more than

$90 million from the 2007 Legislature.

If the board doesn't seek more money from students, "you

whittle away at pay raises," Patterson told The Clarion-Ledger

editorial board on Friday.

Professors' salaries in Mississippi are "woefully behind"

sister institutions in the region, he said. A 5 percent pay raise

will cost $31 million.

During the 2006-07 academic year, tuition increased 4.5 percent

to 5.5 percent with an additional 1 percent gas surcharge tacked

on, despite a similar $90 million increase from the 2006

Legislature following five consecutive years of weak budgets.

Tuition for the 2006-07 academic year at the University of

Mississippi, for instance, was $4,601.

"We were hoping there would be no increase in tuition.

Hopefully, it will not be 5 percent," said Senate Appropriations

Committee Chairman Jack Gordon, D-Okolona.

He said a 3 percent increase would be more appropriate.

The average faculty salary for all of Mississippi's eight

universities was $56,017 in the fiscal year that ended June 30,

2005. Salaries ranged from $43,616 at Mississippi University for

Women to $61,047 at the University of Mississippi.

Board leaders say salaries for Mississippi university professors

are nearly $10,000 a year below those of their peers in the South.

That makes it difficult to recruit and keep good professors, they

say.

Mississippi's 15 community and junior colleges will not have a

tuition increase for the coming year. Lawmakers approved a 20

percent budget increase for the two-year schools for the fiscal

year that starts July 1.

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