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Missouri System Eyes Tuition Increases

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Missiouri Gov. Jay Nixon (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Missiouri Gov. Jay Nixon (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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COLUMBIA,Mo.(AP) — Faced with yet another round of likely state budget cuts, the University of Missouri system wants to increase tuition next year by 7.5 percent at its flagship Columbia campus and even more at its campuses  in St. Louis and Rolla.

A proposal released Tuesday afternoon spells out proposed in-state tuition hikes of 8.2 percent at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and 9 percent at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. TheKansas Citycampus would see a 3 percent increase. Similar increases are being sought for graduate programs and non-resident undergraduates.

The proposals follow a recommended 12.5 percent cut in state funding for higher education in Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget. And while that recommendation is subject to lawmaker approval, Nixon has already warned university leaders to avoid hefty boosts in tuition and instead explore administrative spending reductions.

If  lawmakers adopt Nixon’s proposed funding cuts, Missouri’s public colleges and universities will have seen their state aid cut by about 25 percent over the past three years.

Under Missouri law, public institutions need state approval to increase resident undergraduate tuition beyond the inflation rate, which is roughly 3 percent. The Missouri system received such approval last year — then watched Nixon impose spending restrictions on higher education, beyond those approved by legislators, once he signed his budget into law.

University curators will discuss the proposal Thursday at the start of a two-day meeting at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, with a possible vote on Friday.

In Jefferson City, some lawmakers said the university system had little choice but to ask students and their families to pay more, given the governor’s budget proposal.

“None of us want to see the tuition hikes, but can you blame them?” said Ryan Silvey,R-KansasCity, chairman of the House Budget Committee

Nixon’s budget proposal would cut $50 million from theMissourisystem, including $21 million from the Columbia campus. Concern over the impact of such reductions prompted the four campus chancellors and the acting system president, Steve Owens, to send a dire letter to professors and other university employees last week outlining the possible ramifications.

“This represents a reduction that will pose significant financial challenges for our students and their families as well as our university colleagues,” they wrote. “The proposed level of state support for FY2013 likely will mean additional job losses, research program reductions, the loss of faculty to competing schools, further deterioration of our facilities and cutbacks in our ability to extend our teaching, research and service to citizens across the state.”

The joint letter goes on to note that many of the cost-cutting steps Nixon wants to see are already in place.

“We have reduced administrative overhead, cut travel and other expenses, deferred necessary maintenance and repairs on our facilities, and left hundreds of positions unfilled. For the past several years we also have pursued “shared services” in information technology, human resources and our finance operations to improve the cost-effectiveness of our administrative functions,” the campus leaders wrote.

Columbia campus chancellor Brady Deaton followed up that Jan. 26 letter with his own direct appeal to his employees the next day. He noted that the university’s state appropriations could fall to their lowest levels since 1995 if Nixon’s suggested cuts hold up — even as campus enrollment grew by more than 50 percent over that same time.

And even should the proposed tuition increase hold up, the added revenue still won’t be enough to deal with the state’s budget woes. Making up for the expected loss of state revenue would require an even heftier tuition hike of 11 percent, according to university officials.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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