Increases range from 2 percent at Miss. College to 6 percent at Millsaps

Published 4:05 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Students at Jackson metropolitan area private colleges can expect higher tuition fees this fall.

Increases range from about 1.7 percent at Mississippi College in Clinton to 5 percent at Tougaloo College and Belhaven College to 6 percent at Millsaps College.

Tuition and fees at private, four-year colleges nationwide averaged $22,218 in 2006-07, an increase of $1,238 from 2005-06, according to the New York-based College Board. The average tuition and fee charges were $5,836 at public, four-year colleges.

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All education institutions are facing higher gasoline bills, salaries, utilities, computers and other costs.

Last week, Mississippi’s eight public universities announced tuition increases averaging 6 percent. It was the ninth increase in a decade.

“We really struggle to keep our costs affordable and competitive,” Tougaloo President Beverly Hogan said Monday. “We are mindful of costs of a college education being a barrier to students.”

With the 5 percent increase, the 136-year-old historically black college in Jackson will push its annual tuition to about $8,800. Factor in room and board increases, and the new cost of a Tougaloo education will climb to a little more than $15,000 annually, Hogan said.

“We didn’t have one (tuition increase) the last couple of years,” she said. “It’s time.”

At Belhaven, tuition and fees will be $15,580 next school year. With $6,000 for room and board, annual costs climb to $21,580, school officials said.

Mississippi College’s new price tag will be $17,994, including $11,800 for tuition, for full-time undergraduates in 2007-08. Mississippi College leaders limited the tuition hike to 1.7 percent to help pay for salaries, inflation and other expenses, said Mississippi College board chairman Bill Sones, a Brookhaven banker.

“For about three years, we’ve tried to hold it below 2 percent in a state where people are very price conscious,” said Mississippi College President Lee Royce.

Mississippi College’s enrollment grew from 3,300 students in 2002 to 4,200 in 2006, a 27 percent increase.

“We’ve noticed a connection with our growing enrollment,” Royce said. “We compete to a great extent with our public universities.”

Tougaloo, Belhaven, Millsaps, Mississippi College, William Carey University, Blue Mountain College, Rust College and others bank on dollars from students and private donations to stay viable.

For the new academic year, William Carey leaders in Hattiesburg cited inflation, fuel prices, insurance, utilities and personnel costs in raising annual tuition from $8,400 last year to $8,700 in 2007-08. The new average will be $4,250 for room and board.

Mississippi’s private colleges “don’t have the benefit of state appropriations,” said Harold Fisher, president of the Mississippi Association of Independent Colleges in Ridgeland.

Gasoline prices topping $3 per gallon, personnel costs and inflation are driving many of the increases, said Fisher, who served 36 years as Blue Mountain’s president.

Despite the cost increases, Mississippi’s private colleges are less expensive than national averages and “fairly competitive” with colleges in the South, he said.

The most expensive undergraduate private institution in Mississippi remains Millsaps with its tuition, fees and room and board growing to $31,700 for 2007-08. That includes $21,900 for tuition and $8,368 for room and board.

The cost of college attendance nationwide continues to outpace inflation, said Mathew Cox, Millsaps’ dean of enrollment management. Costs are up, particularly for students in advanced technologies, he said.