Officials: Two-year colleges won’t hike tuition

Published 6:52 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Wayne Stonecypher, executive director of the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges, said he is “not aware of any raising tuition this year” in any of the state’s 15 junior colleges.

“Every time we raise tuition we jeopardize someone’s opportunity to come to school,” Stonecypher said. “We’re about opening doors, not closing them.”

Pearl River Community College and Jones County Junior College will not be raising tuition.

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Classes at Pearl River will continue to cost $810 per semester, while JCJC will continue to charge $870 per semester, the respective colleges’ presidents said.

“Our commitment here has always been to try to keep tuition at an affordable rate for our students,” PRCC President William Lewis said, adding lean years at the beginning of the decade prompted tuition increases that made him “uncomfortable.”

Neither PRCC nor JCJC raised tuition last year, despite continued financial struggles surrounding Hurricane Katrina.

However, this year’s legislative session reaped a windfall for two-year colleges. Lawmakers appropriated $39 million for the two-year colleges and a $35 million bond for capital improvements.

Fulfilling the system’s premier and long-sought funding goal, Gov. Haley Barbour last week also signed into law a concept bill requiring per-pupil funding for two-year college students be at a mid-level between kindergarten through 12th-grade students and students at the state’s regional public universities.

“That’s the most significant piece of legislation for community and junior colleges in 20 years, and I’ll be surprised if there’s anything so significant for another 20,” Stonecypher said.

Stable tuition aside, the new funding for the two-year system means more wish fulfillment for college presidents who saw their state appropriations slashed in the early part of the decade while enrollment skyrocketed.

Lewis expects to grant employees a 5 percent pay increase and use PRCC’s roughly $2 million share of the bond bill to improve roads and parking lots on the Poplarville and Hattiesburg campuses, spokesman Chuck Abadie said.

With its $2.4 million share of the bond bill, JCJC is focusing on a new humanities building, Vice President of Business Affairs Rick Youngblood said through a spokeswoman. The college also expects to grant employees a Legislature-funded 5 percent pay increase, he added.