Board of Curators to discuss tuition and fee increases this week

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 | 6:40 p.m. CST; updated 1:48 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 2, 2012

COLUMBIA — To help cope with Gov. Jay Nixon's proposed 15.1 percent cut to higher education next year, the University of Missouri System is proposing an average tuition increase of 6.5 percent to UM campuses.

The proposal is broken into individual increases at each UM school. As proposed, tuition and required fee increases for resident, undergraduate students are 7 percent for MU, 3 percent for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, 8.3 percent for the University of Missouri Science & Technology at Rolla and 7.7 percent for the University of Missouri-St. Louis — that's an average increase of $580.


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As proposed, MU would see an average tuition increase of 7.5 percent to undergraduate and graduate students, both in and out of state.

The UM System Board of Curators will discuss the proposal to increase tuition and fees at its first full board meeting of the year this Thursday and Friday at UMKC.

Required and supplemental fees are getting some attention too, and proposed course fee increases to MU schools include a 32.8 percent increase in the Trulaske College of Business, a 10.4 increase in the College of Engineering, a 15.7 percent increase in the School of Health Professions, and an 18.3 percent increase in the School of Journalism.

These increases are substantially larger than what the board originally considered.

In December, the board discussed a preliminary plan to increase tuition by 3 percent — the rate of inflation — at UMKC, UMSL and MU and a 5 percent increase at Missouri S&T to help fund need-based scholarships. The December proposal also included course fee increases similar to those being considered this week.

However, Senate Bill 389, passed by the Missouri legislature in 2007, limits how much institutions can raise tuition for in-state, undergraduate students to the rate of inflation. To avoid fines, schools increasing tuition above inflation must request a waiver from the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

Last year, the UM System requested — and was granted — the waiver, but in July, the governor withheld an additional 1.1 percent from the system budget for raising tuition above inflation.

At a forum last week, Columbia Democrats Rep. Stephen Webber and Rep. Chris Kelly said they will try to fight the cuts to the UM System and other public colleges and universities in the General Assembly. Kelly called for cuts to the Missouri Office of Administration to help soften the blow to higher education.

At the event, state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said there are a lot of other places in the budget from which cuts could come.

"(This budget) has been balanced on the back of K-12 and higher education. Period," Schaefer said.

Last week UM System interim president Steve Owens and the four UM Chancellors sent a letter to faculty and staff addressing the governor's proposed cuts and outlined the system's commitment to quality education. The letter highlighted the system's success despite declining state support and record system enrollment.

On Friday, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton echoed the president's facts and figures in his own letter to MU faculty, staff and students.

The Missouri Student Association and new MSA president Xavier Billingsley are urging students to speak up about the proposed higher education cuts, and the MSA website offers sample letters to students interested in writing local state representatives and senators.

In addition, the board, which normally operates with nine members, may be without two voting curators this week.

Former board chairwoman Judith Haggard stepped down Jan. 17, citing personal reasons that prevent her from fulfilling her position, but the board may also lose curator Craig Van Matre, who still needs to be officially confirmed to the board by the Missouri Senate.

The board will tackle a multitude of issues at its meetings Thursday and Friday, including a report on deferred maintenance, an update on the new retirement plan and a state of the university address by Owens, among other items.

Columbia Missourian higher education reporters Breanna Dumbacher and Zach Murdock will be reporting from the board's meetings in Kansas City on Thursday. Follow their reporting online and on Twitter at @CoMissourian and with the hashtag #umcurators.

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