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2015 July 28 - 11:25 pm

Tuition On Rise at 9 of 15 Miss. Colleges

Average Hike is 4 Percent; More State Funding Increase Helps Hold Down Rate of Increase


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Nine of Mississippi’s 15 community and junior colleges will raise charges on students this fall, with the average price of tuition and fees rising by 4 percent statewide.

On average, a student will pay $2,577 for two semesters of full-time classes, up from $2,476 in the 2014-2015 year, according to figures from the state Community College Board.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College will charge the most in the state, $2,992 for two semesters of full-time classes. The Perkinston-based college is raising tuition by 20 percent after four years of basically steady charges, and President Mary Graham said the big bump in tuition was needed to preserve the quality of Mississippi Gulf Coast’s offerings.

“The college has historically made the strategic choice to raise tuition in the amount required to sustain exceptional programs once every few years, rather than in small increments every year,” Graham said in May, when the increase was announced.

Six colleges aren’t raising prices, including Meridian Community College, which will hold steady at $2,314 a year. East Central Community College, which is raising charges by less than 1 percent, will still have the lowest tuition in the state at $2,230 after imposing a $20-a-year increase.

Two-year colleges are getting more state money than they did before the recession. But they still have more students than before the recession, despite four years of falling enrollment as an improving job market cut demand for training.

State funding is rising 4.5 percent in the budget that began July 1. The increase of $11 million in the 2016 budget will push state aid above $260 million, compared to the $216 million that colleges received in 2011. That’s still below the level required by state law, which calls on the Legislature to fund community colleges at the midpoint between universities and K-12 schools.

East Central President Billy Stewart described the increase as “very helpful” in holding down tuition.

Statewide, though, tuition continues to rise faster than inflation and personal income growth. The dollar amounts each year are small, only $100 or $200 a year. But over time, price increases have hurt affordability. While community college tuition cost 3.1 percent of median family income in Mississippi in 2000, it cost 5.7 percent in 2013.

Many Mississippi community college students pay less than full tuition through a combination of scholarships and financial aid. In 20 of Mississippi’s 82 counties, local governments and private donors pay tuition for recent high school graduates who are not covered by other financial aid. Federal Pell Grants typically cover tuition and books for the poorest students.

Follow Jeff Amy at: http://twitter.com/jeffamy

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