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Columbia Missourian

UM System Board of Curators approves health care facility improvements

By Dan Burley, Stephanie Ebbs
December 6, 2012 | 8:05 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS —  The UM System Board of Curators approved funding for two major projects and discussed a proposal to raise tuition and fees at its meeting Thursday.

The board voted to approve $55 million in funding for two projects that will update outdated equipment and renovate facilities.

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One project will replace some outdated equipment at University Hospital, the Critical Care Patient Tower and the University Physicians Medical Building in Columbia. The project will expand the East Campus Chilled Water Plant that serves campus to also serve the health care facilities.

The board approved $20 million in debt financing and the use of $3 million from campus facilities reserves for the project. The plan is predicted to save the system $13 million over the next 25 years and would free up space in the hospital, according to UM System meeting documents.

A second project will renovate and build an addition to the Benton Stadler Science Complex at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The labs are 45 years old and have never been renovated, according to meeting documents. The board approved $30 million in debt financing and $2 million from UMSL campus reserve funds to begin building an additional five-story building that will include state-of-the-art laboratory space.

During their meeting at UMSL, curators also heard a preliminary report on potential increased tuition and fees for fiscal year 2014.

Nikki Krawitz, UM System vice president of finance and administration, presented a proposal that would raise tuition by at least the inflation rate — projected to be 2 percent — at all four campuses.

In the past few years, the UM System has relied more on tuition and fees as state funding for higher education has declined.

Since 2001, state funding to the UM System has decreased by more than 10 percent, putting Missouri 44th in the nation in overall state higher education funding in 2012, according to system documents.

The documents state that decreases in state support have traditionally been offset with tuition increases.

"Students are contributing more than ever to the cost of their education as the state provides less funding support," according to the document.

Curator Don Downing expressed concern about the impact tuition and fee increases would have on student loan obligations after graduation.

"Increases in the institution's tuition and fees are not driving the growing loan obligations," Krawitz said.

She explained that student lifestyle and living expenses are the biggest contributors to burdensome loan debt.

Here's a look at the proposed tuition and fee increases for MU, University of Missouri-Kansas City and Missouri University of Science and Technology.

The proposal included an entirely restructured tuition rate for UMSL that includes activity, facility and health-services fees. Undergraduate, graduate and students receiving metro tuition would see their rates jump by the projected inflation rate, while the non-resident tuition rate would increase by the inflation rate plus at least 4 percent.

The UM System is also examining how the Affordable Care Act will impact the system as an employer and health care provider. Some changes have already taken place as health care reform is implemented, such as allowing employees to keep dependents on their plans until they are 26, which Krawitz said is costing the system an additional $1.5 million per year.

The curators also saw preliminary designs for four previously approved projects:

On Friday, the curators are scheduled to finalize strategic statements written by all four campuses, listen to a presentation by UM System President Tim Wolfe and a panel discussion by the UM chancellors, and elect a board chairperson and vice chairperson for 2013.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.