COLUMBIA — The president of the Missouri Students Association said he expected tuition increases because of state funding cuts. But, Xavier Billingsley said Monday, MSA's recent campaign to get more state money for higher education was not a lost battle.
The student association led a letter-signing drive that drew more than 6,000 supporters urging Gov. Jay Nixon and legislators to increase state funding.
"We weren't fighting for lower tuition," Billingsley said. "We were fighting for more assistance from the government."
Earlier, the University of Missouri System Board of Curators voted unanimously to raise MU undergraduate tuition by 3 percent for residents and 7.5 percent for nonresidents. Starting this summer:
- In-state tuition based on 12 credit hours will increase from $3,139.20 to $3,232.80.
- Out-of-state tuition based on 12 credit hours will increase from $8,017.20 to $8,876.40.
"The tuition increase was lower than expected, and we are happy about that," said Ben Levin, chairman of the student assocation's academic affairs committee.
Both Levin and Billingsley said they plan to continue encouraging lawmakers to fund higher education.
"We've been getting lots of positive feedback from legislators and people high up in the community," Levin said. "And we're not finished yet."
Levin and Billingsley both said they recognize that tuition is a large source of revenue for the UM System. Tuition revenue makes up about two-thirds of the system's $1.1 billion operating budget.
"It does start with lawmakers," Levin said. "And ultimately the curators are doing what they have to to make sure the university has sufficient funding."
Junior Allie Helz, who signed an MSA letter, said she feels the growing difference in resident and non-resident tuition is unjust. Helz, who is from The Woodlands, Texas, said her parents pay for her college expenses.
"Whether it's a struggle or not (for me), I feel like it's unfair for them to increase tuition by that much," Helz said. "I don't feel like there's a legitimate reason for it."
How financial aid helps
At Monday's meeting, Nikki Krawitz, the system's vice president for finance administration, said financial aid will help many students afford the higher tuition.
The average MU resident undergraduate student is projected to receive $3,986 in grant aid for the 2012-13 school year, according to UM System data. Average tuition and fees for that group is projected to be $9,185 — meaning that net cost amounts to $5,199.
"The actual cost to students is well below the sticker price," Krawitz said.
For in-state students with family income levels of less than $40,000, grant aid brings MU tuition down to an average of $778.
MU sets aside a part of each tuition increase and puts it into financial aid, Nick Prewett, interim director of student financial aid, said.
How state funding affected the vote
The tuition vote comes after Nixon proposed a 15 percent cut in state funding for higher education in January. Nixon later said he would add a one-time allocation of $40 million from a national mortgage settlement to higher education, bringing the cut in state funding down to 9 percent from last year's budget.
Although curators have the power to vote again on tuition if the settlement money doesn't come through, Krawitz said Monday's vote is likely final.
"This would probably stick, and we would have to look at other options and address that in a subsequent year," Krawitz said at a news conference after the board meeting.
Faculty and staff cuts
With the tuition increases, the system will still have a budget gap of $47.1 million. The board recognized that tough decisions will have to be made to fund this gap.
Krawitz said at the meeting that between 200 and 245 faculty and staff positions will likely have to be cut. About one-third of these cuts will come from positions that are currently filled, she said.
"We will not talk about the specifics," new system President Tim Wolfe said. "That's a work in process. We are doing our best to save every single role we've got, but unfortunately, the budget process just won't allow that to happen."
Krawitz said that by April, the board will have more information about where the cuts might come from. The budget must be finalized in June.
Wolfe said, however, that tuition increases and cutting positions alone will not bridge the gap.
"This $47 million gap that we described to you, we need help," Wolfe said at the news conference. "We need more money, and we're looking for more sources of money. In the snapshot in time, that's where it is today. We need help."
The working budget for the UM System still includes a 3 percent merit-based salary increase for faculty. Wolfe said this increase was necessary to maintain what he called academic success. He was referring to one of the system's stated goals in developing the budget: "Maintaining and enhancing the quality of the student academic experience is the highest priority."
"We have to address this challenge that we have in paying our people at market rates," Wolfe said.
Push for donations
Krawitz said Monday that increased donor support for scholarships and faculty positions could help the UM System make up its budget deficit.
The MU Office of Development and Alumni Relations launched a comprehensive campaign in January that focuses on student scholarships, faculty and staff, said Catey Terry, director of development communications.
The campaign, which aims to raise at least $1 billion during the next eight to 10 years, has been in planning stages since 2008. Terry said the campaign is not a reaction to this round of state funding cuts and tuition increases, but that what happens in Jefferson City has always affected donation campaigns.
"The landscape has been changing over the years, and so scholarships have always been a priority," Terry said.
The campaign is in the "quiet phase," meaning the office has not made a public call for donations. Staffers are working with people who have donated in the past to get early, large gifts to motivate others to donate.
Stats on the state
The new in-state undergraduate tuition increase reflects the rate of inflation, also 3 percent. Curators cannot raise in-state tuition by more than the rate of inflation without receiving a waiver from the state Coordinating Board for Higher Education.
Curators do not need a waiver to raise out-of-state tuition.
Undergraduate tuition is increasing systemwide by at least 2.9 percent. Here is the breakdown at the system's three other campuses:
- University of Missouri-Kansas City: 3 percent, both residents and nonresidents.
- University of Missouri-St. Louis: 3.1 percent, residents; 8.2 percent, nonresidents.
- Missouri University of Science and Technology: 2.9 percent, residents; 8.5 percent, nonresidents.
Increases in MU graduate student tuition are the same, 3 percent, for resident and nonresident students.