The 10% tuition increase approved by the state college board was essential to bring faculty salaries up to a more competitive level, and to fund other pressing needs at the state`s colleges and universities, said Carl Nicholson, the CPA who heads the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) Board of Trustee`s budget and financial affairs committee.
It was the first tuition hike in six years, and the college board has pledged to avoid another tuition increase for at least three years. The 62,000 students enrolled in state colleges and universities will see yearly tuition increases ranging from $232 to $278.
Nicholson said that the tuition increase was necessary because faculty salaries on most of the campuses are substantially lower than the Southeastern average.
“A tuition increase was our only source of revenue to get those faculty salaries at the level we felt they needed to be,” said Nicholson, a senior partner at Nicholson & Co. PA in Hattiesburg.
Nicholson said funds from the tuition increase will be added to additional funding provided by the Legislature to increase faculty salaries.
“Our end product is the education of the students, and the better quality faculty we have and the higher level of instruction we have, the better result we are going to have for our students,” Nicholson said. “That in turn creates a better employee for Mississippi businesses. All of us are concerned about the cost of higher education. But we also have the responsibility to maintain quality. We felt since tuition hasn`t been increased in six years, maintaining quality was an overriding issue.”
Nicholson said the college board tries to operate higher education like a successful business. “We address revenue sources and control expenses just like any other business,” he said.
Pam Meyer, assistant commissioner for public affairs for IHL, said the tuition increase isn`t expected to have an adverse impact on enrollment. Mississippi has seen one of the nation`s highest increases in the proportion of the population aged 25 or older with bachelor`s degree, with a 6.4% increase. Mississippi is also one of the top states in the country with the highest percentage of freshmen staying in state to attend school. Only about 7% of the state`s freshmen opt to go out of state for school.
Meyer said several factors will ease the impact of the tuition increase.