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Nixon Wants $36.7M More for Missouri Higher Education

By CHRIS BLANK Associated Press
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File photo of a graduation ceremony. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

File photo of a graduation ceremony. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Gov. Jay Nixon called Wednesday for another tuition freeze at Missouri’s public universities while also proposing to boost state funding for the schools.

Nixon said his budget recommendations for next year will include an additional $36.7 million for the institutions. He also urged the four-year schools to freeze tuition for Missouri undergraduates for the 2014-2015 academic year.

The governor announced the higher education plan at Missouri State University in Springfield. He said Missouri has been working to keep college affordable and called for the universities to “help us build on this momentum.”

“Nothing will have a greater impact on the future of our economy, and our state, than the commitment we make now to education,” Nixon said in a statement.

Missouri’s current state operating budget that took effect in July provides public colleges and universities an additional $25 million distributed based upon how the schools perform in areas such as student retention and graduation rates. The governor’s proposed 5 percent increase for next year also would be distributed based on performance.

The idea of an undergraduate tuition freeze is not a new in Missouri.

Most recently, public colleges and universities struck a deal with Nixon to hold undergraduate tuition flat for Missouri residents in 2010-2011 in exchange for receiving no more than about $50 million in cuts to their core state funding. Institutions also had agreed to keep tuition flat the previous school year.

Southeast Missouri State University President Kenneth Dobbins said the funding proposal would result in a $2.1 million increase. He said the university’s budget review committee recommends funding for budget proposals and priorities, which includes tuition increases. It goes to the university president who makes a budget recommendation to the Board of Regents.

Dobbins said Nixon’s announcement would influence the committee’s process.

“The significant increase will allow the committee to not only balance our budget without increasing instate student fees, but will also allow us to address other needs such as starting and expanding academic programs needed in our state, and working on the reduction of the deferred maintenance backlog,” he said.

University of Central Missouri President Charles Ambrose said state funding currently accounts for 39 percent of annual revenues for the campus compared to 65 percent in 2000. The school also received $5 million more from the state in 2000 than now. Ambrose said the proposed funding increase could mean about $2.6 million for the university. He plans to recommend holding tuition flat to the university’s governing board if the governor’s funding proposal is enacted.

“Missouri’s commitment to maintaining the lowest tuition increases in the nation was strengthened by today’s announcement,” Ambrose said in a statement. “We strongly affirm keeping costs low and are prepared to recommend to our Board of Governors a tuition proposal that will keep our tuition flat.”

Last month, Nixon said he also plans to include an additional $15 million in his budget recommendations for expanding Missouri’s merit-based Bright Flight scholarship. The plan would give students receiving the scholarship the option for an extra $5,000 annually for agreeing to work full-time in Missouri immediately after graduation day. Students would need to work in Missouri for each year they accepted the enhanced scholarship, and those leaving early would be required to pay back whatever remained.

The Bright Flight scholarship is awarded based on ACT or SAT scores.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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