Missouri State cuts tuition for unemployed state residents

Saturday, February 21, 2009 | 5:31 p.m. CST

WEST PLAINS — Missouri State University will offer state residents who have lost their jobs a 50 percent reduction in tuition.

The university also announced that it does not intend to raise tuition for traditional students, but the university's Board of Governors approved a 4.7 percent increase in room and board fees for residential halls and university apartments at the Springfield campus on Friday.

MSU President Mike Nietzel said the program for unemployed workers, called RENEW — Renewed Employability Now Education Waiver — would help people improve their credentials and could contribute to an economic recovery.

"We're really not sure how many people will take advantage of this," Nietzel said. "We are hopeful that it is a good program, a good initiative that will enable people facing some real difficulties to get a boost."

Eligible participants must be Missouri residents who have lost full-time jobs since October because of the economy. Some type of proof of job loss will be required. They will be allowed to attend school full or part time in a graduate or undergraduate program.

In Springfield, RENEW will provide $750 per semester to a part-time student (six to 11 credit hours for undergraduates, or five to eight credits for graduates) and $1,350 per semester to full-time students (12 or more credit hours for undergraduates, nine or more for graduates).

Those attending the West Plains campus can receive $375 per semester if they are part-time students, or $675 if they are full time. Laid-off workers may also use the money to pay for distance learning classes, Nietzel said.

The program is scheduled to start in the fall and will be renewable until 2011. If someone wishes to start this summer, Nietzel said the school will try to help.

"We intend to tailor this for individual needs," Nietzel said. "We are going to try to provide individualized counseling and advice to people who want to take advantage of this."

Nietzel said he doesn't expect the program to cost the university anything because the additional students would fill seats in classes that are not at capacity. He said it could make some revenue for the university because it will attract new students.

For traditional students, Nietzel said the proposed room and board increases are necessary to offset the increased minimum wage for student workers, higher costs from food vendors and renovation expenses.

At the meeting, Nietzel reaffirmed the university's intent to freeze tuition for both Springfield and West Plains campuses next year, but added that the university will have to wait to see how the Legislature reacts to Gov. Jay Nixon's budget proposal.

Nixon has proposed maintaining state funding levels for Missouri's public universities and colleges in exchange for no tuition increases.

With the newly approved federal stimulus plan, it would be "reasonable" to expect the state funding level for the university not to dwindle in 2010 and 2011, Nietzel told the board.

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