MU says tuition increases considered for grad and professional programs

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | 6:56 p.m. CST; updated 10:25 a.m. CDT, Friday, April 30, 2010

COLUMBIA – Tuition increases could be in store next year for students in some graduate and professional programs, MU Budget Director Tim Rooney said Tuesday. He didn't specify which programs might raise tuition.

Rooney also said many of the recommendations in a letter from the higher education commissioner detailing solutions for coping with anticipated budget cuts do not apply to MU.

Possible tuition increase

Under the terms of a deal reached between Gov. Jay Nixon and the presidents of Missouri's public four-year institutions, campuses agreed not to raise undergraduate in-state tuition in exchange for preserving 95 percent of the state's appropriation, pending approval of Missouri's legislature.

Out-of-state tuition is not included in the deal, but Rooney said he didn't anticipate that out-of-state undergraduate tuition would increase.

If Nixon's tuition deal were approved, MU would see a $10 million decrease in funding from the state, he said.

UM System schools already reserved 5 percent of this year's funding for the next fiscal year, Rooney said.

Rooney said the university has begun to plan for 2012, when federal stabilization funds expire, but they haven't settled on a course of action. Those funds make up more than 10 percent of Nixon's budget recommendation for next year.

Barring another deal with Nixon or legislators, a tuition increase would be likely for 2012, Rooney said.

Missouri's colleges can only increase tuition by the cost of inflation, which was 2.7 percent in 2009. Rooney said if the budget situation is dire in 2012, the UM Board of Curators might apply to the state to increase tuition more than that, but would consider the impact on enrollment.

"Enrollment growth is what has helped us survive," he said.

Rooney's response to the higher education commissioner

Robert Stein, state commissioner of higher education, sent a letter to state higher education presidents and chancellors two weeks ago, urging them to work together to increase efficiency and prepare for continued declines in state funding.

Abolishing athletics is one suggestion. But Rooney said the MU Athletics Department is mostly self-sustaining, and the university plans to decrease the level of support for athletics in the future.

Rooney said MU already adopted one of the suggestions proposed by Stein – to increase the portion of benefits costs paid by employees – when MU employees began paying part of their retirement plans this summer.

But cutting programs would be difficult, Rooney said, because of the complex nature of higher education.

"You can't just close a program and lay off tenured faculty," he said.

The content of Stein's letter wasn't necessarily news to Rooney.

"Most of the stuff in there I've thought about and laid awake thinking about," he said.

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