2 more Mississippi universities likely to add student fees



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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two of Mississippi's public universities are likely to increase the student fees that are charged above tuition this fall, a growing trend among the schools.

The College Board on Thursday approved the University of Southern Mississippi to add a $20-a-semester student activity fee and $35-a-semester capital improvement fee. The board also approved a $50-a-semester capital improvement fee for Jackson State University.

Board members must again approve the fees later.

USM Student Government Association President Jeffrey George said he hopes the money will be spent in ways that deepen student involvement on campus.

"One goal that we've had is to work to improve the student experience at Southern Miss," George, a senior political science major from Covington, Louisiana, said Thursday. He said students have expressed support for the plan.

The university plans late-night programming, more money for campus speakers, and expanded student health services among other items.

As with other student activity fees approved recently, USM President Rodney Bennett said "students have sort of decided that the time is right."

Facility fees began in fall 2013, changing the policy of generally charging for only tuition, room and board. All universities except Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University are now charging them. Though tuition increases have moderated, growing fees mean four public universities will raise total costs by more than 5 percent on students this year, continuing a trend of cost increases far outstripping growth in family income.

USM said it plans to use its capital fee solely to improve facilities for student services, including $1.6 million to complete a student theater and $1.4 million to plan renovations to the recreation center in Hattiesburg. The money would be used to buy equipment for the student health and student fitness centers at the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, as well as develop additional student recreation and social spaces in Gulf Park.

Both fees at USM are expected to raise $1.32 million a year on the Hattiesburg campus and more than $220,000 a year on the Gulf Park campus. Money raised on each campus will stay there.

JSU said its facility fee will be collected from all students, including non-resident and online students. The university estimates that the fee will collect about $950,000 a year. In documents presented to the board, JSU said it would use the money to do minor renovations, improve the university's computer network, replace HVAC equipment and add emergency generators.

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Jeff Amy

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