Miss. colleges look to nonresident students

Published 1:21 pm Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mississippi officials are looking for ways to attract more out-of-state students, and the funding boost that usually comes with them.

Though facing budget constraints, Mississippi’s universities have the capacity for additional students.

“If I had a restaurant with empty tables, I wouldn’t be turning people away,” Mississippi University for Women President Claudia Limbert told The Clarion-Ledger. “An empty seat brings in zero dollars.”

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MUW, located just 10 miles from the Alabama state line, draws more than 200 students from outside of Mississippi each year.

However, officials say there’s a lot of competition for students. Some universities in Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee offer out-of-state tuition waivers for students from Mississippi.

Senate Universities and Colleges Committee Chairman Doug Davis, R-Hernando, said he will meet with representatives from the university system in the coming weeks to determine if any legislative action should be taken to help attract more out-of-state students.

The 2010 Legislature convenes in January.

“We don’t need to put ourselves at a disadvantage,” Davis said. “If other states are recruiting students from Mississippi, we should be bringing people in.”

Data from the state College Board show Mississippi’s 13,750 nonresident students spread across the eight public universities spend a combined $173 million in the state — on top of their tuition — each year. Economists estimate that generates an additional $14.3 million for the state’s general fund yearly.

Data also suggest that nonresidents increase the diversity of races beyond black and white on all campuses.