• 36°

Southern Miss president asking for 12 percent tuition hike

University of Southern Mississippi President Shelby Thames is seeking a 12 percent tuition hike for in-state students and 15 percent for out-of-state students.

It’s a request prompted by scrutiny from the College Board. All eight of Mississippi’s public universities are expected to present their tuition increase requests to the College Board during its monthly meeting Thursday.

Board finance chairman Aubrey Patterson and Higher Education Commissioner Tom Meredith said another round of tuition hikes is needed despite a 14.3 percent budget increase — a jump of more than $90 million — from the 2007 Legislature.

Thames asked for an 11 percent tuition increase last year, but the board only approved a 5.5 percent boost, said Southern Miss spokeswoman Jana Bryant.

“This is what we really need and what we’re hopeful we can get,” said Thames, who is retiring May 20 as president to return to teaching at the school. “We don’t like increasing tuition — it’s not something I get any pleasure out of. The last thing we want to do is make it harder for young people to go to the university.”

Thames’ proposal would bring the cost of a semester at Southern Miss to $2,573, an increase of $276.

The College Board’s 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent tuition increase for Mississippi universities last year fell below the average 7 percent increase at public four-year universities nationwide.

The College Board is expected to consider granting a systemwide, merit-based salary increase for the eight public universities, spokeswoman Annie Mitchell said.

Southern Miss officials are hoping to see a 5 percent pay increase for faculty, Provost Jay Grimes said. But after those funds are disbursed, only $10 million in state funds will be left for operating expenses at all eight universities — hence the need for more tuition dollars, he said.