College Board discusses possible tuition increases

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Several College Board members expressed support Thursday for giving university presidents the authority to raise tuition – perhaps in a three-year plan – as part of the strategy to deal with ongoing state budget cuts.
During the board’s regular meeting, Commissioner of Higher Education Hank Bounds raised the possibility of adopting a three-year plan to increase tuition.
Normally, the board deals with possible tuition increases in late winter or spring. No vote was taken Thursday, but Bounds said the eight university presidents needed some idea of whether they could count on possible tuition increases to deal with the state’s current budget crisis.
“It is an uncomfortable thing to talk about,” Bounds told the 12-member board during the meeting at the IHL headquarters.
“But we need to talk about whether they will have the flexibility to increase revenue.”
Board member Alan Perry of Jackson stopped just short of giving the presidents carte blanche to raise tuition, saying he believes they will make requests with the best interest of their universities and students in mind.
Bob Owens, also a College Board member from Jackson, did express reservations, saying he did not have enough facts to support or to oppose a request to increase tuition.
But board member Aubrey Patterson of Tupelo said the university presidents need to know whether they can count on tuition increases for financial support.
The presidents, under the direction of the board, are developing plans to deal with budget cuts. College Board members said the plan to deal with the cuts could include the elimination of some academic programs. Those plans are scheduled to be taken up early in 2010.
The College Board did not raise tuition last year in an effort to hold down costs for students and families. The board has come under criticism by some for almost yearly increases in the tuition.
The College Board also took steps Thursday to change policy to require less notice to fire both tenured and non-tenured faculty to deal with budget woes. That policy is expected to be finalized at the January meeting.