Students at The University of Southern Mississippi may be pinching pennies and keeping a closer eye on their student accounts this fall.
Tuition rates for the 2013-2014 school year have increased by at least 6 percent at eight public universities across the state. Undergraduate students who live on campus at Southern Miss will shell out an extra $438 this year for tuition and related expenses.
Douglas Vinzant, USM vice president of finance and administration, said the tuition increase is the result of a decline in state aid and research grants, coupled with rising university costs.
“No one wants to raise prices,” Vinzant said. “It’s an awful choice in that you either raise prices or you begin to, over time, adversely impact the reputation and quality of the programs here.”
Vinzant said that money from the increase doesn’t cover every dollar lost from state appropriations. The money will cover rising employee benefit rates, new facility costs and help increase faculty salaries.
“Higher education is a talent game,” Vinzant said. “There’s a supply and demand aspect of this for talented faculty and staff that is undeniable and that creates an upward pressure on tuition.”
“We want to attract quality faculty so students can receive the best education they can here at Southern Miss; that starts with offering competitive salaries,” he added.
Over 16,000 undergraduate students were enrolled for 2012-2013 school year at USM. That number is expected to increase this year.
Those students may soon feel the effects of the tuition hike as steps have already been taken to limit items charged to student accounts.
Starting this fall, student accounts will only be charged for tuition, registration and housing fees.
Students are only allowed to charge up to $1400 per semester for bookstore and voluntary dining expenses. Library and parking fines as well as housing damages and medical/prescription claims will be charged to a student’s account only if they are not paid to the respective departments.
Christopher Catchings, a senior media production major, is concerned about the new restrictions on student accounts.
“It’s inconsiderate to students because a lot of us depend on families to provide extra income when we get into tight situations,” Catchings said. “We’re here to learn and they’re making the process more difficult and putting more obstacles in the way.”
Vinzant does foresee a point where tuition rates won’t increase, but says it all depends on economic growth.
“In an ideal situation, the state will begin to experience economic growth and tax revenue can help us with the costs of running a university,” he said. “If we could find a way to hold down the cost increases we deal with as an institution then we could eliminate the need to raise tuition.”
The state college board isn’t expected to vote on 2014-2015 tuition rates until later this year.