Today's Question: What will colleges and universities cut when they tighten their belts?

Sunday, November 22, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

This week Gov. Jay Nixon announced an agreement with Missouri’s four-year colleges and universities that tuition fees for their in-state undergraduate students would not rise for academic year 2010-2011. In exchange for the tuition freeze, cuts to funding for higher education would be minimal.

This would be the second year in a row that tuition for in-state undergraduates has not changed. The governor’s proposed 5.2 percent budget cut to higher education institutions is about $42 million less than the 13 campuses affected are currently getting.

Both the Missouri General Assembly, which makes the state's budget, and university and college governing boards must approve the proposal.

This freeze would not apply to out-of-state students or graduate students, both of whose tuition could go up. It also does not apply to ancillary fees like room and board, recreation fees and meals for any student. Under the current tuition freeze, cuts were made to the UM System-affiliated State Historical Society of Missouri and the Missouri Kidney Program, as well as to the MU Health Care system. MU Extension was spared from a proposed $14 million cut.

MU Faculty Council Chairwoman Leona Rubin said the extension of the current stagnant salaries and hiring freeze would be the "best-case scenario" and that less money could mean some staff will lose their jobs.

The UM System would receive about $21 million less than it did last year. UM System President Gary Forsee said he sees the agreement as one that saves higher education from more traumatic cuts. So far this year Missouri has experienced a 14 percent decrease in revenue.

Money from the federal stimulus prevented cuts from being made to higher education last year. But that money will stop in 2012. Forsee said plans to deal with the expiration need to be made now.

MU raised its tuition each year for a decade prior to this year's freeze with 18.1 percent being the largest hike in academic year 2003-2004. Nixon said Missouri might be the only state not inflicting higher tuition on its students. The national average for tuition increases in other states' public institutions is 6.5 percent, he added.

What will colleges and universities cut when they tighten their belts? 

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