By Jeff Amy/The Associated Press
JACKSON — Mississippi Valley State University on Thursday became the second public university to allow all out-of-state residents to pay the same tuition rates as students who live in Mississippi. A similar move was made last year by Delta State University.
Following College Board approval Thursday, the state’s six other public universities also plan to waive nonresident charges on a selective basis.
A 2012 law allows universities to reduce tuition to in-state levels for at least some students to attract those who wouldn’t otherwise attend and increase revenue.
Mississippi universities increasingly depend on tuition, as state appropriations have stagnated in recent years. The schools say competitors in other states are waiving charges for Mississippi students.
At Valley, Mississippi residents pay $5,494 for two semesters of full-time tuition this year. Non-residents pay up to $13,734. As at most schools, many students from both groups will pay less because of financial aid.
Of Valley’s 2,500 fall semester students, 319 were from outside the state. The school says non-resident surcharges should create $2.7 million a year, but it already waives 77 percent of that amount because most non-resident students are athletes, children of alumni or otherwise on scholarship.
Acting Valley President Alfred Rankins Jr. says the move is an attempt to use a low price tag to increase enrollment. The school has struggled to attract students, in part because the population of the Delta region is declining.
“Our resident tuition, if you compare it to resident tuition in other states, is a bargain,” Rankins said Thursday before the board voted.
Valley says it can accommodate more students without additional costs, and that it can recoup lost money if it attracts another 110 students. The school estimates it will not only offset the loss but gain $4.5 million in new tuition revenue by 2018, with a target of adding 215 additional non-resident students by then.
The University of Southern Mississippi won authority to waive nonresident charges in five categories, including current or honorably discharged military personnel, children and grandchildren of longtime alumni association members, graduate student teaching assistants, applicants who show special talent in the arts and high academic achievers who live on the Gulf Coast from Florida to Houston.
Competition between USM and universities in other states that grant waivers to Mississippi residents, particularly the University of South Alabama, was one of the drivers in winning the waiver law last year.
“We were looking at population centers close around us where we’ve had some recruiting success in the past but the out-of-state tuition prevented more,” said USM interim President Aubrey Lucas. He said the school also hoped to capitalize on military personnel at Camp Shelby and Keesler Air Force Base.
Residents pay $6,236 for two semesters at USM, while nonresidents pay $14,352. The school didn’t state how much money it expects to lose from nonresident charges in its submission to the College Board, but said it expects an overall gain between $8 million and $10 million. Only new students could win waivers at USM.
Mississippi State said it would waive out-of-state tuition for all current and honorably discharged members of the armed forces, including those who serve or served in the National Guard, on a case-by-case basis. MSU will also consider partial waivers of out-of-state charges for spouses and children of current active-duty service members, and to survivors of military personnel who died on active duty.
Beyond that, MSU also won permission to waive tuition at its Meridian campus for residents of six nearby Alabama counties.
Residents pay $6,153 for two semesters at MSU, while nonresidents pay $15,550. The school estimates it will forfeit $3.3 million in nonresident charges over five years but collect $6.5 million in new revenue, gaining $3.2 million.