Tuition Guaranty Innovation Will Aid “W”

Tuition Guarantee is a wonderful program.

It may be especially wonderful for Mississippi University for Women.

Tuition Guarantee first manifested at Meridian Community College in 1994. Today, it’s a booming program for Lauderdale County operated by the MCC Foundation.

In 2007, the CREATE Foundation spread the program across northeast Mississippi. Today, graduating high school seniors from 14 – soon to be 16 – counties can use Tuition Guarantee to attend Itawamba, Northeast, Northwest, or East Mississippi Community College.

Tuition Guarantee benefits students by paying the remainder after scholarships and grants are applied to tuition. Community colleges implementing Tuition Guarantee reported big enrollment increases, something MUW desperately needs.

MUW has struggled to grow. An internal marketing study showed the mix of the women’s name with limited programs of study and extracurricular activities puts off potential students.

Add to that, growing money problems. The problems escalated in 2008 when the College Board notified MUW it would no longer provide higher funding than its enrollment warranted. MUW faced a phased-in 26% cut. The current budget crisis brings a probable 20% cut to all of higher education. Blended, that’s about a 40% cut – unless MUW rapidly grows enrollment.

The Governor and others believe the best solution to MUW’s quandary is a merger with Mississippi State.

But some wonder why MUW hasn’t done more with neighboring EMCC. After all, EMCC annually enrolls 4,000 to 5,000 students in credit classes, nearly double MUW’s enrollment (about 300 transfer to MUW from EMCC each year).

Hours after the Legislature did nothing to help MUW – no action was taken on the “Reneau” name change or merger proposals – EMCC and MUW announced that EMCC graduates (starting with Lowndes County residents) may receive Tuition Guarantee to attend MUW.

Tuition Guaranty originated to help high school graduates afford community college. Helping those who complete community college go on to university – what a good, innovative next step!

More innovation to come?

EMCC President Rick Young said EMCC could hold classes on the MUW campus and bring 2,000 students. He suggested that once students become comfortable with the location and environment “they might want to stay.”

MUW president Claudia Limbert said only that discussions are ongoing. Some Columbus leaders strongly support the idea.

Whether this happens or not, it seems clear that innovative steps – and money – are needed for MUW to survive.

One wag said MUW needs to learn the naming process from Mississippi State. “Bagley” College of Engineering, “Hunter Henry” Center, and “Sanderson” Center brought in millions.

“Reneau” would have brought in…historical significance.

Tuition Guarantee is an innovative step that brings students and money.

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