The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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May 18, 2012

MSSU board OKs offering in-state tuition over wide geographic area

JOPLIN, Mo. — Under a new program approved Friday by the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors, out-of-state students over a large region will be able to attend the university at the same cost as Missouri students.

What is called the Lion Pride Tuition plan offers the in-state rate of $169.48 per credit hour to students from as far west as Wichita, Kan., as far south as Fort Smith, Ark., and also extending deep into Oklahoma and even into Illinois.

The program will be available to students enrolling for the fall semester.

While other universities have similar programs, the area encompassed by the MSSU program appears to be much larger. Darren Fullerton, MSSU vice president for student affairs, said the university targeted the area for good reason.

“We looked at where our students come from,” he said after the board meeting. That included reciprocal agreements with schools in Illinois.

Until now, MSSU has offered scholarships to out-of-state students in bordering counties to afford them in-state tuition, but Fullerton said it has had limited success. He said it is a complicated procedure and many students weren’t able to retain the scholarships.

Fullerton said MSSU is a border school, but it’s also in the hub of the regional economy.

He said competing for tuition revenue was important when state financial support for universities is decreasing, but he also downplayed that aspect.

“It’s an investment in those students,” Fullerton said.

In a news release announcing the program, MSSU President Bruce Speck said the university’s strong programs and faculty will allow it to become a destination for out-of-state students.

“MSSU has always been committed to being accessible and affordable,” he said. “To make college more attainable is the right thing for us to do for our students.”

Pittsburg (Kan.) State University has its Gorilla Advantage program. It encompasses 14 neighboring counties in Missouri, eight neighboring counties in Oklahoma and beginning in the fall semester, Benton and Washington counties in Arkansas. The university has proposed to the Kansas Board of Regents to add Platt and Clay counties in the Kansas City, Mo., area.

PSU also is seeking approval to offer tuition at 150 percent of in-state rates to qualified students throughout Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas, outside the Gorilla Advantage area.

Bill Ivy, associate vice president for enrollment management, said 17 percent of the total student population is through Gorilla Advantage.

 Enrollment through the program has increased by 36 percent, from 1,080 in fall 2005 to 1,469 in fall 2011. The number of students enrolling from Southeast Kansas has decreased, while there also has been a nearly 6 percent increase during the same period from the rest of Kansas.

The program is important to the university’s finances, but also important to the local economy, said PSU spokesman Ron Womble.

“Recent studies have shown that every student who attends PSU contributes more than $10,300 to the local economy annually,” Womble said.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City has offered in-state tuition rates since 2000 to Kansas students in Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami and Wyandotte counties. Atchison, Douglas, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Osage and Shawnee counties were added to the program in 2010, resulting in a big boost in enrollment, said UMKC spokesman John Martellaro.

The MSSU board on Friday also approved a $72.4 million balanced budget for the 2012-13 school year. It includes no across-the-board pay raises, but board Chairwoman Sherry Buchanan and Speck said that would be the top priority if additional money approved by the Legislature is approved by Gov. Jay Nixon.

“I understand that the board’s top priority in terms of personnel is an across-the-board raise, and I will keep my fingers crossed that a change in state appropriations will allow us to do just that,” Speck said.

Resignation

The Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors accepted the resignation of A.J. Anglin, vice president for academic affairs. He is taking a teaching position at the university.

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