In spite of a new law that caps tuition increases at the rate of inflation, tuition is becoming a more important part of MU's budget as the General Assembly is allocating less money to public universities.
In June, the UM system Board of Curators voted to increase tuition on all campuses by 4.1 percent. The vote raised the required tuition and fees amount at MU to $8,467 for resident undergraduates students and $19,554 for non-resident undergraduate students.
Tuition rates at MU have increased annually to help the university raise more money.
In 2004 alone, UM system tuition increased by 19.8 percent after the state did not deliver a promised $37 million, said Nikki Krawitz, UM system finance and administration vice president.
Tuition and fees are on the rise for Missouri's public universities due to a lack of state funding. Krawitz said tuition increases are important because the system needs the money to balance its budget even with the legislative cuts.
"We have got these two big buckets and when one bucket is decreased, in order to continue to offer the quality education that students expect, the other bucket has to be increased to make up the difference, just to stay even," Krawitz said. "And that does not even take into account the impact of inflation."
Since 2002, the state has given the school less than the amount of money it would need to keep up with inflation.
Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, said drops in appropriation rates were the result of capital gains taxes and Sept. 11, 2001.
Robb said he thinks the state should raise the amount of appropriations it gives to higher education. However, he would not support raising taxes to do so.
"You certainly would not want to do it in a year when you are having a recession," Robb.
The recent economic crisis might affect tuition levels for next year. Tony Luetkemeyer, Board of Curators student representative, said tax appropriations for the UM system could go up or down based on how Missouri handles the country's financial problems.
"The first thing we're going to need to do is to figure out how much money the General Assembly is going to allocate to the university and that number may be impacted by the economic climate right now," Luetkemeyer said.
Gov. Matt Blunt signed a bill in 2007 that stops public universities from increasing tuition levels more than the rate of inflation. If a university raises tuition past that level without the higher education commissioner permission, they will be penalized 5 percent of their annual state appropriations.
This school year, the first year the law was in effect, the tuition increase matched inflation, despite the fact from 2001 to 2006 MU set tuition for resident students that was more than the rate of inflation.
Krawitz said the law makes it harder for the university system to operate financially.
"What it does is it reduces our flexibility and makes it more difficult for us to respond to the funding needs that the university has," Krawitz said.
Beside tuition, MU students also pay student fees. Missouri Students Association Senate Speaker Jonathan Mays said he is trying to get the university to come up with a plan for holding student fees as close to inflation as possible, or even below.
MSA is also focusing on placing direct responsibility on students for their annual spending. A new MSA bill requires at least 25 percent of new facility fees be charged immediately after students approve a new fee, rather than the year the building is operational.
In Aug. 2005, MU students approved a $35 student center fee increase by student referendum. That fee will not go into effect until spring of 2009.
"You can have a three or four year gap between when a fee is approved and when it is assessed," Mays said. "So right now, there is not that much accountability. In fact, in that case, there is no accountability for approving student fees because almost all of the people who approve it will never have to pay for it."
Overall, Luetkemeyer said the university system is doing all it can to make sure fees, like tuition, remain affordable for students.
"It's always the university's hope to try and keep tuition as low as possible because the university realizes as a state institution, we always have to maintain affordability and accessibility to students," Luetkemeyer said.