JACKSON, Miss. – The flexibility of a new law that will allow universities to waive out-of-state tuition will let each school structure a plan conducive to its needs, according to higher education leaders.
Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds tells the Jackson Clarion-Ledger the law will particularly help Delta State University in Cleveland and Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, which are near state borders but are struggling to meet enrollment goals.
“There are folks that live in Alabama, but they work in Columbus and go to church in Columbus,” said Bounds. “They can’t go to school there (at the MUW) unless they pay out-of-state tuition. But if you live in Columbus, you can go to the University of Alabama without paying out-of-state tuition.”
Bounds said in cases where universities are nearly at capacity, such as the University of Mississippi or Mississippi State University, the program might be used to address specific needs, like recruiting more students for an education major or nursing major with the goal of producing more teachers and nurses for the state.
Bounds said the College Board is expected to look at the universities’ plans as early as next month.
Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill on March 30, which takes effect July 1.
Senate Universities and Colleges Committee Chairman Terry Burton, R-Newton, has said some universities in nearby states already waive out-of-state tuition for some Mississippi residents, particularly those who live near the state lines. Current law doesn’t allow Mississippi to reciprocate.
Burton believes the change could encourage people to earn their college degrees in Mississippi, and then possibly remain in the state to build careers and become taxpaying residents.
Current in-state tuition for full-time undergraduate students at Mississippi’s eight universities ranges from $4,876 a year at Mississippi University for Women to $5,834 a year at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Out-of-state tuition ranges from $12,460 a year at Mississippi Valley State University to $14,797 a year at the University of Mississippi.