Education

‘Substantial’ tuition hikes likely at MGCCC, PRCC after state’s cuts

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College instructor Margaret West helps Derek Watts in his computer application class March 3. MGCCC and Pearl River Community College are likely to lose millions of dollars in state funding for the upcoming school year.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College instructor Margaret West helps Derek Watts in his computer application class March 3. MGCCC and Pearl River Community College are likely to lose millions of dollars in state funding for the upcoming school year. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

The Coast’s two biggest community colleges are considering raising tuition after the state College Board last week approved unusually high increases for Mississippi’s eight public universities.

The reason: State budget cuts.

Gov. Phil Bryant has made several rounds of cuts because tax collections fell short of expectations. And next year’s budget will be about 2 percent less than this year, although the Legislature ended is regular session without hashing out how the cuts would affect each department. They will have to do so during a special session called for June 5.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Pearl River Community College are likely to lose millions of dollars in state funding for the upcoming school year, and officials say they have few options.

MGCCC estimates it will lose more than $6 million — close to 12 percent of its budget. PRCC could lose nearly $1.5 million, a little more than 10 percent of its budget.

MGCCC President Mary Graham, who has been with the school for 30 years, said the budget cuts are among the largest she can remember.

“We’ve had to deal with cuts in the past, but this is the biggest one I’ve seen in at least 10 years,” she said.

PRCC President William Lewis agreed.

“I’ve been in this business for 50 years and I don’t recall a cut of this magnitude,” he said.

Lewis said the tuition increase for students will be “substantial,” although no official decision has been made. He said the college is looking at an increase of about a $200 per semester, as well as a $100 increase in student-housing fees.

PRCC started this year with $800,000 less from the state than for the 2015-16 school year, Lewis said, which resulted in personnel cuts. And he said it’s likely the new budget will result in similar job losses.

Graham said MGCCC is looking at ways to stave off raising tuition or fees or reducing personnel.

“We’ve already trimmed the fat,” she said. “We’re pretty lean already. We don’t have much left.”

The fiscal year budget begins in July, and both schools expect to finalize their budget in June. It’s likely trustees will make a decision on the tuition issue at their May meetings, Graham and Lewis said.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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