As President of The University of Southern Mississippi, I am proud of the ways our institution has helped our graduates accomplish their academic and leadership goals for more than 106 years. Our University provides high-quality education and research programs that serve the citizens of the state of Mississippi, from the thriving waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the rich fields of the Delta. Annually we contribute more than $603 million to our state’s economy and graduate more than 3,200 new alumni who are well-prepared for their futures.
As we continue to forge our path toward becoming a model student-centered public research university that prepares students to thrive in a global society, we must challenge ourselves to approach our work with a transformative eye toward the future. Our goals of increasing the overall quality of our student body and the total quantity of students we enroll are impacted by the projected decline in the number of students graduating from Mississippi high schools each year. We must continue to expand enrollment strategies by developing targeted recruitment tactics to attract top-performing students from across our state and from out-of-state markets where growth exceeds the capacities of in-state institutions.
Our top priority is and will always be to admit and educate all qualified Mississippi resident students regardless of the number of out-of-state students we admit. However, we must find alternative ways to address budgetary challenges and generate enough revenue to continue providing academic programs and services to in-state students. Following many strategic conversations about innovative ways to recruit beyond our borders, the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning has approved our proposal to reduce non-resident tuition and fees from $16,419 to $9,854 per year, effective for the fall 2017 class.
We believe that this new pricing structure will not only position us competitively in nearby regional markets where in-state tuition rates range from $9,060 to $12,700, but that it will also place us among the best values for a college education across the United States, allowing us to elevate our brand and recruit more new students nationally. The out-of-state students we hope to recruit with this new pricing strategy will never displace our Mississippi students – in fact, their enrollment at USM will provide revenue that allows us to continue funding programs and services that benefit our in-state students. Importantly, we also believe this revenue stream will help us keep in-state tuition at an affordable rate, and well below out-of-state tuition, in the future.
As we plan for our next 106 years, we are committed to continuing to invest in Mississippi through research activity, community partnerships, and ongoing efforts to recruit, retain, educate, and graduate our next generation of great leaders who will return to our cities and our campuses for many years to come. We look forward to instilling the spirit of South Mississippi into all of our students along the way, and we invite you to encourage students to join us on our journey To The Top.
*Rodney D. Bennett is president of The University of Southern Mississippi. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org