JACKSON, Mississippi — In-state tuition at Mississippi's eight public universities is set to rise by 4.1 percent on average next fall, with the average price of tuition and fees crossing $7,000 for the first time.
The College Board approved the preliminary increase Thursday and trustees will likely vote again in December to finalize the plan.
The statewide average for two semesters of full-time tuition and fees would rise by an average of $268 to $7,027, with increases ranging from 2.5 percent at Alcorn State University to 5 percent at Delta State University.
Tuition would go up another 3.3 percent on average in fall 2017 under plans presented to the board.
Seven schools plan increases ranging from 1.4 percent to 4.9 percent in 2017. Delta State plans no increase that year.
Universities say they need more money to increase faculty salaries, cover operational costs and make up for lingering reductions to state aid.
"We have needs to be met on campus to maintain the quality of academic programs," said Jim Borsig, president of the Mississippi University for Women.
Though appropriations to the university system rose by $23 million this year, it still remains $11 million short of state appropriations in the 2008 budget year, the last year before the recession forced sharp reductions.
"The truth of the matter is, it's still been hard to recover from the recession," Higher Education Commissioner Glen Boyce said.
Universities and other state agencies also face the threat of possible budget cuts in the current year, and little projected growth in state revenue in 2016-2017. Boyce, though, said those projections didn't figure much into the tuition decisions.
Many students don't pay the sticker price, thanks to federal, state and college-based aid. In 2012-2013, Mississippi university students typically got $6,500 worth of aid, Southern Regional Education Board figures show. That covered about one-third of the total cost of attendance, which includes tuition, room and board, books and transportation.
Still, increasing college costs are far outstripping stagnant family incomes. In-state tuition will rise 64 percent from fall 2006 to fall 2016, while household incomes in Mississippi have risen less than 20 percent in that time. It now takes about 17 percent of the typical Mississippi family's income to pay for just tuition at a state university.
More students are borrowing to pay for school. More than half of freshmen at the state's eight public universities had federally financed student debt in 2012-2013, with the typical borrower incurring more than $7,000 in debt. The numbers are higher at some schools.