Missouri higher education revenue per student 49th in nation

Friday, March 11, 2011 | 9:22 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — In recent years, Missouri has cut aid to colleges and universities and held down tuition increases, while the number of students has risen. As a result, Missouri has seen one of the largest declines nationally in per-student revenues for higher education.

Missouri's total available revenues for higher education institutions declined by 12 percent on a per-student basis from the 2005-10 fiscal years, according to a report released this week by the State Higher Education Executive Officers, a national association for the CEOs of state higher education coordinating boards.

That was the second largest decline nationally, behind only a 13.4 percent drop in New Mexico.

The association's revenue figures include money available both from state aid and student tuition.

Missouri Higher Education Commissioner David Russell said Friday the report reflects economic realities.

"The desire to adequately fund higher education exists, but the means to do it is lacking," Russell said in a written statement. "Institutions are educating more students with fewer resources, and that is likely to continue to be the case until new sources of revenue are identified or the economy recovers."

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and Republican legislative leaders have ruled out tax increases, meaning Missouri is unlikely to gain any additional revenue sources in the near future.

Public colleges and universities are nearing the end of their second straight year of a tuition-freeze agreement brokered by Nixon. The institutions agreed to hold tuition flat in exchange for being spared cuts in basic state aid last year and for receiving no more than about $50 million of reductions in state aid during the current academic year.

With the agreement expiring, state aid is expected to be cut further for the coming school year, and many institutions already are making plans to raise tuition. Some schools, for example, expect to seek a waiver from a state law capping tuition increases at roughly the rate of inflation.

Nationally, per student revenues available for higher education institutions rose an average of 3.4 percent during the past five years, according to the report. Missouri's ranking of 49th was two spots lower than Kansas, which had a 7.8 percent decline.

But many of Missouri's other neighbors increased their total per-student higher education revenues. Oklahoma's 24.9 percent increase ranked second behind only a 28.4 percent increase in Texas. Illinois and Arkansas also ranked in the top 10 for their five-year increase in per student higher education revenues.

"Missouri is standing out from the rest of the country," said Kathy Love, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Higher Education. "It can be good or it can be bad — it shows there's insufficient resources for higher education but that colleges have been keeping their doors open for students in spite of the recession."

Over the past five years, Missouri's per-student funding for higher education institutions fell 10 percent while enrollment grew nearly 18 percent at public colleges and universities, according to the department.

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