Five out of eight public universities are increasing tuition yet again with the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees citing inflation and rising insurance costs as the reason. 

Mississippi’s eight public universities have all steadily increased tuition since 2000, putting the cost of college increasingly out of reach for the average Mississippi family. More than half of Mississippi college students graduated with an average of $29,714 in student debt in 2020, according to the Institution for College Access and Success.

This coming school year, the average in-state tuition will increase by an average of  $169 to from $8,396 a year to $8,564, according to a budget presentation at Thursday’s regular board meeting. 

Average out-of-state tuition saw an even bigger hike, up $342 from last year to $12,538, namely due to large increases by Jackson State University and Mississippi State University. 

Delta State University, which has been facing enrollment challenges in recent years, did not increase tuition for the first time since the pandemic. Past officials had been concerned that the university is verging on becoming too pricey for its service area, the Mississippi Delta. 

“The (executive cabinet) discussed and decided as much as possible next year to try to keep the cost down for students,” Larry Wakefield, the interim vice president for finance and administration, said in a statement. 

Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University, the least expensive school, also did not increase tuition. 

Kim Gallaspy, IHL’s interim communications director, wrote in an email that “inflation is having a significant effect on university budgets, increasing costs for utilities, commodities and maintenance. Insurance costs, including protection against cyberthreats, continue to rise.” 

IHL also cited inflation as a reason for tuition increases last year. 

A spokesperson for MSU — the most expensive university which increased its tuition by $417, the most this year — also cited inflation as the reason for the rate hikes. 

“Confronted with high inflation across the board, particularly in terms of energy costs and steep increases in the employer cost of health insurance and property insurance, Mississippi State chose to seek a reasonable tuition increase that is on a percentage basis far less than the percentage of those actual inflationary increases,” Sid Salter wrote in an email. 

“Even with this increase, tuition at Mississippi State remains a bargain when measured against comparable research institutions in our region,” he added. 

The Legislature allocated about $428 million in education and general funds for the eight universities, a little more than 4% increase, according to the presentation.

Molly Minta covers higher education for Mississippi Today, in partnership with Open Campus.

Higher education reporter at Mississippi Today in partnership with Open Campus.