Gov.-elect Matt Blunt said Wednesday that higher education in Missouri needs to be more affordable and more accountable to taxpayers.
“College is not just a rite of passage for the elite,” Blunt said at the Governor’s Conference on Higher Education in Columbia. Rather, he said, it is an opportunity for all Missourians who qualify and who want to attend.
“It’s essential that our state’s citizens have access to education if they’re going to reach their full potential,” he said.
Blunt said he wants to control tuition increases.
“In some cases, higher education is steadily priced out of the reach of the middle class,” he said.
Blunt said after his speech that the legislature is responsible for providing higher education in Missouri with a consistent source of state revenue and that if the legislature is doing so, universities should go to lawmakers before raising tuition more than the rate of inflation.
At a recent meeting of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, system President Elson Floyd said he intends to request that the next tuition increase not exceed 3.5 percent.
Blunt has proposed a “Truth in Tuition” program that would require Missouri colleges and universities to provide students and parents with a written estimate of the cost of their education. This estimate would include four years of tuition, room, board, fees and books, adjusted for potential tuition increases and inflation.
“Families should know what the cost of education would be,” Blunt said at the conference.
MU does not provide cost information for four years as Blunt’s plan would require, but MU does provide cost estimates for the next semester, based on current tuition and fees, said MU spokesman Christian Basi. These can be found online at web.missouri.edu/%7Eforcash/cost.htm.
Blunt stressed the need for responsible stewardship of taxpayer money in higher education and throughout Missouri government.
“The first solution to every problem shouldn’t be to look to the taxpayers,” he said after the speech.
Throughout his address Blunt emphasized consolidation and efficiency. He cited plans to consolidate the state’s pharmaceutical contracts and to streamline the state’s informational technology offices as prime examples of the process.
He asked Missouri colleges and universities for maximum efficiency in spending tax dollars to make a better case for investment in higher education.
The UM system has been consolidating its operations, said UM spokesman Joe Moore.
“The University of Missouri as a whole has been working to operate as efficiently as possible during tough economic times,” Moore said.
For example, Moore said, during the past three years, UM has gone through workforce reductions and restructuring such as moving the Extension office to MU.