UM System recommends 5.5 percent tuition increase

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 | 7:44 p.m. CST; updated 10:29 a.m. CST, Wednesday, January 26, 2011

COLUMBIA — The tuition freeze at the University of Missouri System's four campuses is all but certain to end this year.

The administration is asking the UM System Board of Curators for a 5.5 percent average increase for in-state undergraduate students. The curators will meet later this week to consider the request.

The Columbia campus is asking for a 5.8 percent increase, which would provide a $13 million increase in revenue. Tuition and fees at MU would increase to $8,993 for a student taking 28 hours over two semesters, up from $8,500 during the current school year.

Other campuses are asking for increases of between 4.7 percent and 6.6 percent. This would be the first year for the system's four campuses to be decoupled, allowing each to recommend increases based on specific needs.

“We've tried to keep those [increases] at the lowest levels possible,” said Nikki Krawitz, vice president for finance and administration.

Yet, the UM System is expected to provide a certain level of quality for students, she said.

“If we are going to recruit and maintain faculty, keep buildings in good shape and make programs available to them, it requires a tuition increase of this size,” Krawitz said.

The increase would take effect at the beginning of the fiscal year in July.

The news comes on the heels of Gov. Jay Nixon's State of the State address, in which he recommended a 7 percent decrease in appropriations — $10.4 million — to the Columbia campus. That leaves the state's flagship campus with a $32 million budget gap before the curators finalize any tuition and fees increase.

If the tuition increase is approved, MU still must close a $17 million shortfall in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. A variety of options are on the table, said Todd Mackley, assistant director of budgeting.

Departments may be asked to cut budgets, as they were last year, he said. In addition, maintenance repairs can be further delayed. MU currently has a maintenance backlog of $511 million.

All four UM System campuses are seeking tuition increases, with Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla asking for the largest — 6.6 percent. The University of Missouri-St. Louis is recommending a 4.7 percent increase, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City is requesting 4.8 percent.

The budget is not usually set this early in the year, said Christian Basi, associate director of the MU News Bureau. But because the rate of the tuition increase is above that of the consumer price index, the UM System must apply for a waiver to the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

“We have to plan the best we can for next year,” Basi said. “It's good to have something like this set ahead of schedule.”

The curators will consider tuition and fees increases on nonresident undergraduate students, graduate students and various professional schools at this week's meeting.

The two-year tuition freeze was an agreement between Nixon and former UM System President Gary Forsee in exchange for retaining a consistent level of state funding.

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