Board of Curators talks tuition, system finances at December meeting

Thursday, December 8, 2011 | 6:34 p.m. CST; updated 7:09 a.m. CST, Friday, December 9, 2011

 ST. LOUIS — Tuition is on the rise for 2012.

The UM System Board of Curators discussed a proposal to raise the tuition at three University of Missouri campuses — MU, University of Missouri-Kansas City and University of Missouri-St. Louis — at the rate of inflation, which is estimated to be about 3 percent.

The Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla proposed an increase at the rate of inflation plus an additional 2 percent increase to provide more funding for need-based scholarships. Last year, curators voted to decouple tuition at the four UM campuses, which allows each campus' tuition to be managed individually, instead of the system as a whole.

The proposal includes increases in some course fees of between 10 percent and 33 percent and an average increase of $7.25 in 10 fee increases across the UM campuses.

A Missouri law limiting public colleges and universities from raising tuition above the rate of inflation without a waiver does not apply to supplemental and course fees, and several curators expressed concern that dramatic hikes in fees continue to drive up the actual cost of education to students.

The curators did not vote on any tuition or fee increases Thursday but will vote on finalized proposals at their meeting in February.

Tuition and fee increases come on the heels of an anticipated drop in state funding for higher education. Nikki Krawitz, UM System vice president of finance and administration, talked about the system's strategic financial planning in what has proven to be difficult economic times for the UM System.

"From a pessimistic perspective, each of our campuses is looking at a potential for a decrease in state funding and support," Krawitz said.

Missouri ranks 45 out of 50 in state funding for higher education per capita and last compared to states bordering Missouri, board documents state.

State appropriations per full-time student have fallen 35 percent since 2000 while the system has had record enrollments annually in the same period, Krawitz said.

"There are no magic bullets," she said, reiterating that the system must find more ways to collect revenue to account for the lack of state appropriations.

"That's something I think we all know we have to focus on, the 'other revenues' piece of the pie is going to have to grow," said curator Don Downing. "I think all of us are going to have to focus on more creative ways to increase revenue."

The board is at the Millennium Student Center on the UMSL campus Thursday and Friday for its regularly scheduled December meetings.

Earlier in the day, curators met as the presidential search committee in another closed session to discuss the recommendations given to several board members Tuesday during a presidential search advisory committee at Mizzou Arena.

The advisory committee interviewed one candidate Tuesday, but afterward, board Chairman Warren Erdman indicated a new president would not be named this week. UM spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead called the odds of a presidential selection "extremely unlikely."

Erdman also indicated Tuesday that he will address the presidential search in the regularly scheduled news conference after the board's meetings Friday.

Other notes from Thursday's curators meetings:

  • The board approved a contract with Fidelity Investments to serve as the administrator for the defined contribution portion of the new retirement plan approved in October. Betsy Rodriguez, UM System vice president for human resources, said having a single administrator for this portion of the plan makes it more user-friendly for employees and that more clarity may encourage more participation in the plan.
  • The board discussed a proposed discount for students attending MU from counties touching the Missouri state line in bordering states. The discount would split the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition, and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said he hoped it would help develop areas such as Quincy, Ill., Kansas counties in the Kansas City area and Arkansas counties bordering Missouri.
  • Krawitz presented the financial aid outlook for the upcoming academic year and emphasized that financial aid is also tied to the problems facing state funding and revenue that have spurred next year's tuition increase.
  • The board heard a presentation from Krawitz about a probable move to a performance funding model that would apply to new funding provided by the state. Despite criticism from the MU Faculty Council, Krawitz has previously said the model might not be implemented in the next few years because performance measures would apply only to additional funding, and she doesn't expect there will be much — if any — new state funding to allocate under the performance model.
  • The board also heard reports from the four UM chancellors about future fundraising campaigns and strategies for improving college completion rates.

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Ellis Smith December 8, 2011 | 8:12 p.m.

1- This is worth taking the time to read.

2- Decoupling tuition was proposed during the Elson Floyd administration and has been pushed by MS&T, which feels that reasonable tuition increases won't discourage enrollment. Certain majors at MS&T aren't offered at other universities in Missouri, and some aren't offered by universities in any of the eight states surrounding Missouri.

3- Decoupling the campuses makes sense. While UMKC and UMSL have commonalities, they aren't like either MU or MS&T, which aren't at all like each other.

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