Gov. Nixon, presidents agree to freeze tuition

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 | 2:27 p.m. CST; updated 9:44 a.m. CST, Wednesday, November 18, 2009

*This article was updated at 8:05 p.m.

COLUMBIA — Despite a proposed second year of relatively stable funding, the UM system is planning ahead for deeper cuts in 2012.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced Tuesday that Missouri’s four-year public colleges and universities will not see an increase in tuition or academic fees for the second year in a row. However, federal stabilization funds are set to expire by 2012.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said the agreement, which has yet to be approved, will not impose a tuition increase on in-state undergraduate students for the 2010-2011 school year. The agreement has to pass through the institutions’ governing boards and the Missouri General Assembly, which begins its session in January.

According to a news release, Nixon has agreed to maintain higher education funding at about 95 percent of the current fiscal year’s appropriation — a reduction of 5.2 percent, or $42 million.

Holste said this is the second consecutive year Missouri in-state students have benefited from a tuition freeze. If the agreement passes, 13 Missouri public institutions will benefit from the freeze, including the entire University of Missouri System.

"There will be no increase for Missouri families," Holste said.

In other states, tuition has increased by an average of 6.5 percent nationally in the past year, the release stated. Some have seen increases of nearly 17 percent.

MU's tuition has increased for the past decade prior to last year's freeze. The largest was a 18.1 percent increase for the 03-04 school year.

Because it must pass through the General Assembly, the decision to freeze tuition is one that is evaluated annually, Holste said.

UM system president Gary Forsee said freezing tuition after years of budget cuts and rising tuition has "started to stabilize this roller coaster that we've been on."

Forsee said it is important to plan quickly for 2012. Last year, he released a list of potential cuts and expense reductions that can act as a starting point for planning ahead.

"Every dollar now has a multiplying effect later," Forsee said.

Forsee will meet with high level system administrators on Wednesday to address some of the budget issues.

According to the MU Cashiers Web site, in-state undergraduate students pay $245.60 per credit hour, whereas out-of-state students pay that fee in addition to $369.70 per credit hour. In-state graduate students pay $298.70 per credit hour.

Here's how the rest of MU's undergraduate fees break down:

  • Recreation Facility Fee - Students enrolled in more than six credit hours pay $133.11 per semester for use of the Student Recreation Complex.
  • Student Activity Fee - Undergraduates enrolled in more than 11 credit hours are charged a $157.56 per semester fee.

  • Prepaid Health Fee - A $92.78 per semester fee is charged to students enrolled in more than six credit hours, and is optional to those with fewer hours.

  •  Information Technology Fee - Students are charged $12.20 per credit hour.

In addition to these fees, many schools within the university charge students accepted into their programs with specific course fees.

But, these supplemental course fees are not included in the tuition freeze. In addition, graduate, out of state and department fees are excluded from the freeze, Forsee said. He said they could rise, but the decision to do so is made with the discretion of universities.

Lex Akers, MU College of Engineering associate dean for academic programs, said the school charges $54.50 per credit hour for students enrolled in engineering courses. Though he is uncertain if supplemental academic fees will increase, he said he is sympathetic to students.

"If we can hold funding to the university during these difficult financial times, it's wonderful for both the university and the citizens of Missouri," he said.

In May, Missouri lawmakers passed a budget that spares colleges and universities from cuts to their core operating budgets for the 2009-2010 school year. They did so by tapping into millions of dollars of what's known as the "budget stabilization" portion of the federal stimulus package, as previously reported in the Missourian.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said in a news release that Nixon's announcement is premature.

"We have yet to determine the coming year's budget consensus revenue. That means we do not yet know how much money will even be in the state's bank account to fund the critical functions of state government," Mayer said in the release.

Mayer said he hopes the freeze agreement will extend to fees other than tuition.

"It is my hope that the agreement includes freezes in the ancillary costs that students incur while attending college, such as their room and board, meals and recreation fees, among others," he said.

State legislators, such as Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, and House Budget Chairman Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, said they supported the governor's strategy to make it clear what he wants early.

"I think it's great for Missouri families and students to know they're not going to have to dig deeper in their pockets," Bray said.

Both legislators said it was still early in the process and specifics could change as more details about how the final budget will look become more apparent.

MU News Bureau spokesman Christian Basi said Nixon will speak at a press conference at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Reynolds Alumni Center. Forsee and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton are also expected to attend.

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