UM Curators debate presidential search, tuition increases

Thursday, January 27, 2011 | 8:21 p.m. CST; updated 6:59 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 29, 2011

COLUMBIA — The University of Missouri System is one step closer to having a new president and maybe a day away from increasing tuition.

The UM System Board of Curators discussed increasing tuition at all four campuses and voted unanimously Thursday to hire a search firm to find the next president of the UM System.

The curators granted Betsy Rodriguez, vice president of human resources, approval to send letters to prospective search firms to seek proposals. The curators also voted to create a presidential search advisory committee comprised of people already involved with the university.

Rodriguez said she has a list of eight to 12 firms and narrowing it to two or three finalists should not be hard. Baker-Parker Inc. was selected as the search firm during the UM System's last presidential search.

Curator Warren Erdman pointed out that not all candidates for the position should be presented by the search firm.

“I would encourage all stakeholders at the University of Missouri, and for that matter the civic leaders of Missouri, to help us identify candidates,” Erdman said to the other members of the board.

Erdman favored the search committee taking its time with the process.

“I don't like limiting our options by a deadline,” Erdman said. “You don't want the schedule dictating a poor outcome.”

Presidential searches typically last between six and 12 months, Rodriguez told the curators, with the former being rarer.

Curators acknowledged having interim president Steve Owens will help with the process because it relaxes the need for a firm deadline.

For John M. Carnahan III and three other curators, this will be their last meeting. They will make way for new members, appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon, whose involvement in the search will be vital, Carnahan said. "We need to get the new curators into this process as fast as possible,” he said.  

The curators will hold six public forums in the coming months to gain input from the public. Erdman stressed the importance of the meetings, as well as the curators' attendance.

“It's important that we bring the public into this process as best we can,” Erdman said. “If we choose to do this, I think it's important that we all attend.”

Tuition increase

With the UM System facing a $72 million budget shortfall, and state appropriations dropping, the curators were forced to consider raising tuition and fees.

The finance committee discussed whether to limit increases in tuition and required fees. Curator Don Downing suggested limiting the average tuition increase for all four campuses to 5 percent. That motion failed, so the board will vote Friday on a 5.5 percent average increase.

For MU, tuition would be increased by a total of 6.5 percent. Required fees, including activity and health fees, would be increased by 1.1 percent. The average of these two percentages is a 5.8 percent total cost increase for students in the coming fiscal year.

The tuition increases come at the expense of students' ability to continue paying for higher education at UM System campuses — something Nikki Krawitz, vice president for finance and administration, said is a chief concern. UM System campuses will commit 20 percent of revenue from the tuition increases to grant aid for students.

“I will emphasize that our financial aid offices are committed to working with students to make it possible for those who have been enrolled to continue to be enrolled,” Krawitz said.

The board will also vote Friday on Downing’s other motion: capping supplemental course fees at a 9 percent increase. This cap would only affect course fee increases for four departments at MU: allied health, business, engineering and journalism. The suggested increases are:

  • Business: 97.2 percent; $34.50 more per course
  • Journalism: 44.9 percent; $18.60 more per course
  • Health professions: 37.1 percent; $20.30 more per course
  • Engineering: 23.3 percent; $14.00 more per course

Suggested course fee increases for all other departments at MU were 6.5 percent.

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