By Scott Meeker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
When Sydney Marsellis began looking for a college to attend, the athletics program was something on which she was immediately focused, but her dad had another suggestion.
“My dad was telling me, ‘Look at the tuition costs. What if you don’t play (volleyball) all four years?’” Marsellis said.
The Owasso, Okla., native settled on Missouri Southern State University not just because of a volleyball scholarship, but also the tuition rates. Because of her residency in the bordering state, she qualified for in-state tuition rates.
Now a senior communications/public relations major, Marsellis said she was appreciative of the tuition opportunities afforded to out-of-state students, especially when a variety of factors led to her not playing volleyball all four years.
“I’m grateful that I chose Missouri Southern; otherwise I might not be a senior right now,” she said.
The out-of-state tuition costs at the university earned recognition this week when U.S. News & World Report released its “Best College” rankings.
Missouri Southern was named one of the 10 public schools with the cheapest out-of-state tuition.
The data used in the annual rankings were compiled from a survey of more than 1,800 colleges and universities. For the out-of-state tuition rankings, figures did not include costs associated with room and board, books and other items.
According to the report, out-of-state tuition averaged $19,100 for the 2012-13 school year, compared with nearly $8,300 for in-state students.
The least expensive public college for out-of-state students, according to the rankings, was Minot (N.D.) State University. The tuition and fees for out-of-state students for the 2012-13 year were $5,921. Missouri Southern came in at No. 10 on the list with $9,654.
The top 10 also included West Texas A&M University, Bemidji (Minn.) State University and Louisiana State University-Alexandria. Among the 10 schools, the average cost for out-of-state students was about $8,600 — “just a few hundred dollars more than average in-state tuition across the country,” according to the report.
“Any time you can get national recognition, it’s great for the university,” said Darren Fullerton, Missouri Southern’s vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.
“A lot of students may not look at a school that is out of state because of an assumption that tuition will be higher,” he said. “We’ve tried especially to rein in the escalating cost of getting an education. We want students, parents and the community to know that Missouri Southern strives to keep education affordable.”
During the spring 2013 semester, Missouri Southern had 852 out-of-state students out of a total enrollment of 5,052.
Of those 852 students, 310 qualified for the Lion Pride tuition program, which allows students from Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and parts of Illinois to attend the university at an in-state tuition rate.
For the 2013-14 academic year, tuition at Missouri Southern will be $173.20 per credit hour for in-state students and $346.40 for out-of-state ones.
The 30 counties in Illinois that qualify as part of the Lion Pride program include border areas as well as larger metropolitan areas, such as Chicago. Fullerton said those counties were selected in an analysis that looked at not just the geography of the state but also factors such as students’ ACT scores.
Drawing in out-of-state students is also a priority at Pittsburg (Kan.) State University.
Ron Womble, director of media relations for the university, said one of the most attractive tuition perks is the flat-rate fee for students taking 10 or more hours.
“It’s a great deal for students who are capable of taking 15 to 18 hours a semester,” he said.
During the 2012-13 school year, in-state undergraduates paid $2,747 per semester for fees and tuition, while the cost was $7,525 for out-of-state students. Those rates will rise to $2,953 and $7,893 with the start of the fall semester.
Out-of-state students who graduate from high schools covered in the Gorilla Advantage plan — which covers 16 counties in Missouri, eight in Oklahoma and two in Arkansas — can attend PSU and pay in-state rates.
That region will be expanded further with the Gorilla Edge plan, Womble said.
“Gorilla Edge goes into effect this fall,” he said. “Students coming in from outside the Gorilla Advantage counties in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas can pay the equivalent of 150 percent of in-state tuition.”
During the 2012-13 school year, a little more than 20 percent of PSU’s total enrollment came from students living in the Gorilla Advantage counties, Womble said.
THE OUT-OF-STATE COSTS at MSSU are comparable with what some colleges and universities charge for in-state students, said Darren Fullerton, Missouri Southern’s vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.