The Maneater

MDHE approves UM System tuition hike, fines averted

The UM System was the first institution in MIssouri to have this waiver approved.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education approved the waiver the UM System filed in regard to its decision to raise tuition more than the consumer price index Monday.

“Based on the university’s responses to the criteria established to evaluate penalty waiver requests, I have concluded that the tuition rate increase adopted by the University of Missouri System is sufficiently warranted,” MDHE Commissioner David Russell said in a news release.

The Board of Curators, the governing body of the UM System, voted in January to raise tuition across the four-campus system an average of $61, or 5.5 percent. Specifically to MU, tuition will raise 5.8 percent at MU. This increase was in response to Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed 7 percent cut in state appropriations for the system, which will consequently result in a $42 million budget shortfall.

Seeing raising tuition as the best way to conquer this shortfall, the system voted in favor of the increase. But, under the jurisdiction of Senate Bill 389, which was enacted in 2007, any Missouri public institution must submit an appeal to the state if it decides to raise tuition higher than inflation, which was 1.5 percent this year. If it doesn’t, it will face fines. The UM System was the first institution to utilize this appeal.

Disregarding the fact that the system had not raised tuition at all in the past two years, Nixon voiced his concern with the system’s decision.

“This tuition proposal is well beyond the increase in the cost of living allowed by statute,” Nixon said in a statement. “Universities should look first at achieving every efficiency in their operations before taking this type of action that affects families’ ability to pay for higher education.”

According to Russell however, the system did indeed look to achieve efficiencies – implementing a number of measures since fiscal year 1998 to cut, avoid and defer operating costs. These measures have totaled more than $247 million at this time.

Other reasons Russell said he approved the waiver include the system’s tuition raises over the past three years, which includes this new raise, are only slightly more than 1 percent above inflation for that same period, which was 4.3 percent. The decrease in state appropriations over this same period is about 12.2 percent.

“This combination of modest or no tuition increases coinciding with sharp declines in state appropriations represent extraordinary historical circumstances,” Russell said.

Russell was also pleased to see 20 percent of the revenue generated from this increase will result in increased financial aid for lower income students.

“The commissioner found that university officials had demonstrated sensitivity to the issue of affordability by committing 20 percent of the new revenue gained from the tuition and fee increase to additional financial aid for the neediest students,” Interim UM System President Steve Owens said in a statement.

Owens had voiced numerous times throughout the tuition-setting process the necessity of the increase, so he was naturally pleased to see Russell approve the waiver request.

“Our goal was to increase tuition the least amount possible while maintaining quality and affordability,” Owens said. “I think we struck the right balance. The university remains committed to providing a quality, yet affordable, education for Missouri citizens.”

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