Missouri college plans to reverse fee increase

Wednesday, June 2, 2010 | 6:01 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri college plans to rescind a fee increase for students after being told by Gov. Jay Nixon's administration that it would violate a statewide deal to freeze tuition next school year.

Administrators at Linn State Technical College said Wednesday they will waive a fee increase of $3 per credit hour for courses taught at its central Missouri campus during the 2010-11 academic year.

The college Board of Regents will vote on the fee reversal June 25, just one month after the board approved it.

Missouri's public colleges and universities struck a deal last fall with Nixon to hold undergraduate tuition flat for Missouri residents for a second straight year in exchange for receiving no more than about $50 million in cuts to their core state funding for 2010-11.

The legislature upheld the deal by limiting the cuts in the budget it passed last month.

But there has been confusion among some college officials as to exactly what they agreed to do.

Officials at Linn State, for example, thought they were technically abiding by the agreement with their $3 per credit hour fee increase.

"It never was a tuition increase; it was a fee increase," said John Nilges, the college's vice president for administration and finance. "It's a very complex misunderstanding in terms of the agreement versus the Department of Higher Education versus the institutions."

After the fee increase was approved, Nixon officials called both the college and the Department of Higher Education to suggest the fee violated the tuition-freeze deal.

"The concern was this was an across-the-board increase in a fee," making it similar to a tuition increase, Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said. By contrast, Nixon's administration said a fee charged to students only for certain courses or activities would not violate the tuition-freeze agreement.

That means Linn State can keep two other fee increases also approved last month — a $15 increase for uniforms used in some courses and a $100 fee increase for an automotive course involving Ford Motor Co.

Deputy Higher Education Commissioner Paul Wagner said Linn State's case appears to be unique, though officials at other institutions also have been uncertain how to implement the tuition freeze agreement. The deal was struck by Nixon; not the higher education department.

"There were definitely a lot of questions that came in about what does this really mean," Wagner said. "But we haven't seen another institution come in with something that looks like a tuition increase."

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