By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press
JACKSON – A bill headed to Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant would allow individual universities to waive out-of-state tuition if the state College Board deems the practice fiscally responsible.
Senate Universities and Colleges Committee Chairman Terry Burton, R-Newton, 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.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Burton said.
Commissioner of Higher Education Hank Bounds said he agrees with Burton’s assessment.
“The waiver can be an important tool for some of our institutions to recruit students from our neighboring states, which may result in the students settling in Mississippi after graduation to begin their careers,” Bounds said in a written statement. “Currently, institutions must use scholarship funds to attract students from neighboring states. Allowing an institution to waive the non-resident portion of tuition would free up institutional scholarship funds to meet other needs.”
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 in Columbus to $5,834 a year at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
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.
Similar proposals to allow the waiver of in-state tuition have died in the past.
“Gov. Bryant will review the legislation and is supportive of giving our colleges and universities tools to attract the best and brightest students to our campuses,” Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock said Monday.
Burton said he believes universities near the state lines, such as the Mississippi State University branch in Meridian, might attract more students if they could offer some form of out-of-state tuition waiver.