Sara Aziz, a sophomore Forensics Science major, started a petition on July 22 to lower the tuition of The University of Southern Mississippi, leading to a wider conversation on the uses of tutions in universities.
The Institute for Higher Learning sets the tuition rate for all eight public universities in Mississippi. All eight universities have a base rate of around $366, meaning Southern Miss could not lower tuition without asking IHL.
“Throughout this pandemic, we have examined all of our policies and fees and how they would impact our students,” Dee Dee Anderson, Vice President of Student Affairs, said. “Because of this, we made the decision early in the summer to reduce online fees from $20 to $10 and and to not increase tuition and residence hall costs this year.”
Aziz said if students from all eight universities made their voices heard in a group effort, then IHL would be more likely to lower tuition prices.
“Convincing IHL to recognize that a refund is due for our Mississippi students is my priority,” Aziz said. “Afterwards, we can negotiate and figure out what can be refunded.”
Aziz said every student is being affected by the events going on on campus. Students are not receiving the in-person, sports or overall same experience a four-year college offers students.
“It is instead being done virtually or offered through kits, Greek life cannot have events nor can various clubs,” Aziz said. “Unfortunately, students have signed leases and got dorms when they could have completed their studies at home.”
As the petition gained momentum, Anderson contacted Aziz. Anderson said that Southern Miss understands the concerns that students have over the cost of attendance and are always mindful about the impact decisions have on students and families.
“Your tuition dollars pay for a lot of services and facilities on campus along with supporting classroom teaching,” Anderson said. “General tuition together with the allocation from the legislative appropriation is used for support of educational and general expenses of Southern Miss.”
Anderson said that, as a result, there would be a significant impact to Southern Miss if tuition costs were reduced.
“Any loss of income requires us to reduce costs,” Anderson said. “This would result in a reduction of services for students, reduction of on campus jobs for students and a reduction in staffing.”
After learning how tuition works for Southern Miss, Aziz decided not to push for lower tuition and closed the petition, which had then gained 3151 supporters. She said she understood how the university is a business, which meant finding ways to pay staff and expenses. However, she also said she is still asking the university to be fair to students, and will continue to encourage other students to do the same.
“I started this petition as a rant on Snapchat and I had tremendous feedback from friends expressing how angry and dissatisfied and those who had to drop out because of financial problems,” Aziz said. “I wanted Southern Miss to hear what the students have to say about tuition.”
Aziz said Southern Miss responded very well and thoroughly explained how they are doing everything to give students the same college experience with modifications for health and safety concerns.
For more information about how this semester is going to work, Southern Miss Parent & Family on Facebook released a video. It can be viewed below.