HATTIESBURG, MISS. - Leaders of eight public Mississippi universities are expressing concerns regarding the amount of state funding their schools receive. These leaders question if they will be able to remain competitive with other institutions after having to raise tuition to make up for lack of state funding.
“The State Institutions of Higher Learning, that's the eight public institutions in Mississippi. We've been collectively cut about one-hundred-seven-million dollars,” University of Southern Mississippi’s Vice President for External Affairs, Chad Driskell said.
These cuts to higher education devastated universities throughout Mississippi. This particular cut Driskell speaks of is almost 14 percent lower than the previous budget.
“As you may recall at the end of the 2017 calendar year... We, unfortunately, had to make some staff reductions here at the University of Southern Mississippi,” Driskell said.
This lead to the dismissal of 20 USM employees. Despite the current gloomy atmosphere surrounding funding higher education, the University of Southern Mississippi still remains positive.
“The University of Southern Mississippi is a six-hundred-million dollar economic engine to South Mississippi, and Mississippi as a whole,” Driskell explained. “And going forward with our recruitment efforts and our anticipated large freshman class coming in and our research efforts, we really feel like the best days of the university are ahead of us.”
Driskell pointed to graph chart to explain the reason why.
“When you compare the University of Southern Mississippi to other schools in the southeastern area. You can really see that we're a much better value than many of the other schools in the southeastern part of the United States,” Driskell explained while pointing at the graph.
Despite budget cuts, USM still maintains a tuition price lower than most schools. One of the few reasons why this university saw their second largest freshman class in school history, this semester.
“Well, the University of Southern Mississippi has persevered through these budget cuts because of the talented staff we have at the University of Southern Mississippi,” Driskell stated.
The University of Southern Mississippi’s average tuition comes in right under $7,000, which puts the school in the lower-third of tuition cost in the United States.