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Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. The state’s public universities now rely more on tuition than appropriations for funding.
Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. The state’s public universities now rely more on tuition than appropriations for funding. Credit: Jackie Mader/The Hechinger Report

Mississippi is now relying more on tuition revenue than state and local appropriations to fund public higher education, according to new data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO).

The organization looked at appropriations amounts and tuition revenue to determine how much funding higher education receives from each source. For the first time ever, the majority of states rely on tuition as the principal source of higher education funding. In Mississippi, state and local appropriations for each student enrolled full-time in the state’s institutions of higher education have decreased by nearly 24 percent compared to pre-recession numbers. In 2017, public institutions received about $5,892 in state and local appropriations per each student enrolled full-time, down from $6,055 in 2016. Tuition revenue for each full-time student increased from $5,792 in 2016 to $6,009 in 2017.

Andy Carlson, vice president of finance policy and member services at SHEEO said while the news that most states are now relying more on tuition than appropriations was not a surprise, it is “problematic,” especially as states are trying to increase the number of students earning degrees.

“There’s a need to close equity gaps and serve underserved populations and adult learners,” Carlson said. “Those students probably have more significant costs, and the students we need to serve are less likely to afford the tuition than a traditional college student.”

Nationwide, only six states have returned to pre-recession funding levels and 28 states rely more on tuition dollars than on state and local funding. Enrollment in public institutions decreased from 11.5 million in 2012 to 11 million in 2017. Financial aid for students has increased 86 percent since 2000, with states spending an average of $673 in financial aid per student in 2017.

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