Delta State to waive all nonresident tuition costs

By Jeff Amy/The Associated Press

JACKSON — Delta State University will become the first of Mississippi’s eight public universities to allow all non-Mississippi residents to pay the same tuition rates as students who live in the state.

After College Board approval Thursday in a meeting at Oxford, five of the eight schools now plan to waive nonresident charges for at least some students.

The University of Mississippi will waive nonresident charges for military veterans and certain incoming freshmen with strong academic credentials.

They join Alcorn State University, Jackson State University and Mississippi University for Women, which won approval for waivers from the College Board during the summer. Ole Miss and Delta State will roll out their new waivers in fall 2013.

The Legislature passed a law this year allowing universities to reduce tuition to in-state levels for some non-Mississippians. The schools lobbied for the measure, saying public colleges in other states were waiving charges for Mississippi students. College officials say the idea is to lure students who wouldn’t otherwise attend, increasing revenue for schools. Mississippi universities have become increasingly dependent on tuition in recent years, as state appropriations have stagnated or fallen.

Mississippi residents pay up to $5,580 for two semesters of full-time tuition at Delta State this year. Non-residents pay up to $14,436. As at most schools, many students from both groups will pay less because of financial aid.

While Delta State’s waiver for all non-Mississippians is the most aggressive policy yet, in reality it would have little immediate effect on the 4,600-student university’s finances. That’s because Delta State has only 269 out-of-state students and already waives the non-resident surcharge for 231 of them. It collects less than $350,000 a year from the remaining 38.

That number could grow, though. In its proposal to the College Board, Delta State said it wanted to overcome a shrinking population of college-aged students in Mississippi’s Delta region by competing on price for students from outside the state.

“If we can get that price down, the price-quality relationship will make us very competitive when it comes to recruiting out-of-state students,” said Greg Redlin, Delta State’s vice president for finance and administration.

Delta State’s initial goal is modest, though. Redlin said the school hopes to add 60 non-Mississippi students over the next four years. He said the school could add hundreds of students without having to hire more faculty, and could add as many as 1,000 without having to build new buildings. If it can bring in more students, even at in-state rates without adding more overhead, the revenue would bolster the school financially.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss says it wants to waive out-of-state charges in a more targeted way, in line with the other schools. Today, residents pay $6,185 for two semesters of Ole Miss tuition, while nonresidents pay $16,165.

The university would eliminate nonresident charges for undergraduate military veterans. It would also waive charges for incoming freshmen with high grades and test scores who enroll in particular science, technology, engineering and math programs, or who live in specific geographic areas where Ole Miss is trying to increase recruitment.

The university estimates it would give up $2.4 million in non-resident surcharges over five years. At the current surcharge rate, that works out to fewer than 50 waivers a year. Ole Miss estimates it could collect up to $11 million in tuition revenue from those students.

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