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Jones: Tuition hike needed to offset budget cuts

Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones told a crowd of about 100 people at today’s Stennis Capitol Press Corps luncheon in Jackson that a “modest tuition increase” will be necessary to make up for cuts in state funds.

If not, Mississippi’s higher education system would be “devastated,” Jones said, and would lead to the elimination of personnel and programs. He did not offer any specific percentage an increase would have to reach to be effective, but said he and financial officials would start crunching numbers in the next couple weeks.

Jones’ assertion is the clearest acknowledgement yet that the shortfall in state money will have to be made up with an increase in tuition. Higher Education Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds told lawmakers during budget hearings in September that tuition hikes were a possibility, but not a guarantee.

Raising tuition is one of two ways Ole Miss will have to raise revenue, Jones said, with the other being an increase in enrollment.

“There’s going to be less (state) money to spend,” Jones said.

October’s revenue collection were 6.66 percent, or $27.8 million, under estimates made as the Legislature wrapped up the 2009 session at the end of June. For the first four months of fiscal year 2010, revenue is $105.2 million, or 7.42 percent, below estimates.

Gov. Haley Barbour has already cut the budget of education, including colleges and universities, by 5 percent, trimming $172.9 million in September. Last month Barbour told state agency heads to prioritize their programs in anticipation of an across-the-board cut of 7 percent.

Jones said revenue generated from a tuition increase would decrease the likelihood of eliminating programs and personnel, and would also keep stable Ole Miss’ need-based financial aid for students.

“We can’t limit access (to higher education) based on a family’s finances,” he said.

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