More students will soon be eligible for in-state tuition at Missouri Southern State University.

The university's governing board on Thursday approved an expansion to its Lion Pride program, which currently offers in-state tuition to residents of Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas. The expansion, which will take effect in the fall, means that students from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands also will receive in-state tuition rates.

The university as a whole doesn't recruit in these areas, but specific programs recruit in this region, said Brad Hodson, executive vice president. The Plaster School of Business recruits heavily in the Virgin Islands, and Missouri Southern football recruits in American Samoa, he said.

"There are pockets of opportunity where we believe providing in-state tuition could lead to some gains there," he said Thursday morning at a meeting of the board's budget/audit committee.

In-state tuition is currently $222.24 per credit hour, compared to $444.48 per credit hour for out-of-state residents. Tuition rates for the fall semester aren't expected to be set by the university until June.

The timing of the proposal will align with the university's next themed semester, a hallmark of its mission of international education that features lectures, films and educational events from a specific country or region of the world. This fall, Missouri Southern will focus on the Oceanic region, which generally describes the part of the world connected by the Pacific Ocean, said Paula Carson, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

American Samoa, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are all located in the Pacific.

"We think (the Lion Pride expansion) would be a very good offering and strengthening of our themed semester," Carson said.

In other business Thursday, MSSU officials said they are taking steps to make the application process easier for prospective students.

As of July 1, the university will waive the $30 application fee for students from the Joplin, Carl Junction, Webb City, Carthage and Neosho school districts and Crowder College. Officials believe the financial impact to the university will be nominal because the fee, which is currently $25 but is set to increase to $30 on July 1, is already routinely waived for a variety of students, including military veterans and students receiving the federal Pell Grant.

Missouri Southern also recently joined the Common Application consortium, a group of more than 700 colleges and universities from all 50 states, Canada, China and Europe. Students who use the Common App program fill out only application that can be sent to as many schools as they wish, officials said.

Last year, Missouri institutions received 60,000 applications through the program.

"Missouri Southern's membership (in Common App) is intended to increase the number of applications received at the top of the admissions funnel, hopefully resulting in additional enrollees at the bottom of the funnel," Hodson said.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.