ST. LOUIS — Placing blame primarily on the shoulders of state lawmakers, the UM Board of Curators met Thursday afternoon to approve a tuition raise for 2005 that curators hope will help offset another year of decreasing state aid.
Though the curators said the move — which increases tuition costs by 7.5 percent and allows individual colleges at MU to charge more — was necessary, they also decried the lack of support from state government. The General Assembly has cut $158 million from higher education funding over the past three years.
“This board is going to take a lot of criticism and heat for this fee increase,” said curator Sean McGinnis. “But it’s important to keep in mind the reason for that, which is the dismal level of state support for higher education.”
The tuition increase passed Thursday amounts to $444 more annually for UM system students. But some students at MU could be charged more, because the board also agreed to let individual colleges at MU add fees of their own. MU students in the schools of journalism, business, education and agriculture will now be paying an additional $30 to $35 per credit hour.
Though the additional fees will help offset losses of state funding, student leaders at MU did not support the measure, saying it was not well publicized and would only lead to confusion among students about who has to pay extra costs.
“These are the kinds of things that cause students to leave with debt and without a degree,” said Missouri Students Association Vice President Kara Heppermann.
The tuition increase and class fees also highlighted one of several trends in Missouri’s higher education funding, said UM system Vice President for Finance Nikki Krawitz. Missouri’s higher education spending is down to 5.5 percent of the total state budget, compared with Arkansas’ 15 percent and Iowa’s 24 percent. She said that, now more than ever, students are being relied upon to fund their own education.
“We reached the conclusion that where there is strong state support, education fees tend to be lower,” she said. “Higher education is becoming a private good, where those who take advantage of it are expected to support it.”
Curator Anne Ream also blasted state government for failing to act to create more revenue. But she was equally critical of UM system officials and the curators themselves for failing to come up with alternate funding plans.
“The thing that bothers me is that 7.5 percent won’t be enough,” Ream said. “The idea that we can keep up with the decline in state revenue is wrong. There won’t be a fix until they (the legislature) pass an additional revenue stream.”
UM system President Elson Floyd denied that, despite frustrations over the lack of available money, the state was shirking responsibility for funding education. He said flaws in the budgeting process itself were to blame.
“There are few degrees of freedom that the legislature has,” he said.
The Board of Curators passed the tuition raise by a vote of 6 to 1, with Ream abstaining and Marion Cairnes absent. McGinnis voted against it.