Monday the university confirmed that it will raise tuition to $265 per credit hour from $255 per credit hour. The increase will add up to an additional $240 per academic year for a student who takes 12 in-state undergraduate credit hours for two semesters.
The increase is in keeping with a resolution the institution’s board of trustees passed in April. The resolution states that the university would not raise tuition unless the state cut its funding.
Late last week the university learned a budget passed by the Legislature would cut JSU’s funding by 4 percent. JSU’s tuition increase amounts to a 3.92 percent hike.
“We’re going to do the very best with what we have,” Meehan said. “That increase gets up to where we would hope to have level funding.”
Since 2008, JSU has lost about $15 million in state funding from its roughly $100 million annual budget, Meehan said.
When the board passed the resolution this spring, members believed there was a chance the state would not reduce the university’s funding, board chairman Jim Bennett said.
“We had hoped we would have level funding,” Bennett said. “We do the best we can. Unfortunately when the Legislature cuts our appropriation that’s the only approach we have left.”
In 2011, trustees increased tuition by 12.8 percent, raising tuition per-hour for in-state undergrads from $226 to $255. That followed an 8.6 percent increase in 2010 and a 9.47 percent increase in 2009. Before the 2009 increase, tuition for in-state undergrads was $190 per hour. Monday’s announcements marks a 39.47 percent increase over four years.
Bennett said the board had to raise tuition to maintain the level of education at the institution. Legislators also had to make a tough budget decision, he said.
“They didn’t have any choice either,” Bennett said. “These are just tough economic times.”
The Rolling Reserve Act, passed last year, places a cap on how much funding the Legislature can dedicate to the Education Trust Fund, the primary source of state money for Alabama’s public schools and colleges. Because of the bill, which is aimed at preventing proration, the Legislature had to pass a smaller education budget, said Derek Trotter, communications director for Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the Senate’s president pro tempore.
This year the education budget fell to $5.4 billion from last year’s $5.6 billion budget, a $208 million loss, Trotter said.
The budget cut reduced funding to all of Alabama’s public universities at an equal rate, and JSU is not the only institution of higher education to increase tuition this year.
No matter the reason, the increasing costs add an economic burden for students. The impact could be offset by financial aid, said Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success, a nonprofit organization that works to increase college access.
Given what Asher said, many of Alabama’s low- to moderate-income students may find themselves in a bind. According to Vickie Adams, director of student financial services at JSU, student aid is not increasing with the cost of tuition.
Adams said she won’t know how much money the institution will receive for state-funded student grants this year, but she believes it will be down. In addition, Congress last year cut the federal government’s summer Pell Grant program effective this year. Students qualify for Pell Grants based on their families’ income, making the grants an important source of college funding for poorer families.
Further, Asher said, the total annual allotment of Pell Grant money available to individual students, $5,550, hasn’t gone up in several years. In addition, it’s not enough to cover the cost of tuition two 12-credit hour semesters at Jacksonville State, which will cost $6,360 for in-state undergraduates next year.
Contact Staff Writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter@LJohnson_Star.