Curators discuss supplemental fee increases

The proposed fees would generate a little over $2 million for MU.

MU will be seeking several supplemental fee increases when the UM System Board of Curators convenes in February.

UM System President Tim Wolfe told the board during a special session Thursday that the proposal includes 18 fee increases and creation of new fees across the four UM campuses, nine of them in MU colleges.

MU would generate a little over $2 million in revenue from the proposed fee increases in six of its colleges: School of Medicine, Sinclair School of Nursing, College of Human Environmental Sciences, Trulaske College of Business, College of Arts and Science and College of Engineering.

The largest portions of the proposed increases come from the School of Medicine and School of Nursing, which are respectively seeking to increase fees to $148.50 per semester and $20 per credit hour. These fees are currently $593.70 per semester and $70 per credit hour, respectively.

Wolfe said while supplemental fees make up a small portion of the larger system-wide and campus budgets, the proposed changes are needed to meet critical needs on the campuses.

“We don’t like to pull that supplemental fee lever — it is a last resort … but we are a state right now where we need this incremental resource to fix labs, hire additional faculty and and give necessary services to maintain quality so that we can meet and exceed the goals defined in our strategic plan,” he said.

Wolfe said each supplemental fee has a specific purpose that justifies the levy.

According to the proposal documents, the $148.50 increase at the School of Medicine would support the Sheldon Clinical Simulation Lab and e-resources for the Medical School Library. The cost of these resources has doubled since 2011, according to the documents.

The documents state the Sinclair School of Nursing would use the proposed $20 per credit hour to hire additional faculty and maintain the ratio of clinical students to faculty necessary for accreditation.

School of Nursing Dean Judith Miller said the ratio of clinical students to faculty required for the accreditation is 8:1, but the school’s resources are spread thin to accommodate that need.

“Right now, we have increased it to 10:1, and we have students shuffled off to other experiences so that there are only eight with a faculty member in the clinical setting,” she said.

Miller said about 20 percent of the funds generated from the fees would be invested in scholarships for nursing students.

Another issue the school seeks to address with proposed fee increases is non-competitive salaries for faculty, Miller said.

“(We have) tenure-track assistant professors whose salaries are a full $20,000 less than the mean for national salaries for faculty,” she said. “This (increase) is not going to pull us up to that level, but it is all part of a bigger picture.”

Faculty salaries at MU have been a widely discussed issue among faculty and administrators for some time.

Betsy Rodriguez, UM Vice President of Human Resources, said in April 2014 that MU’s salaries are “non-competitive” to peer institutions in the Association of American Universities. In 2006, MU ranked 33rd out of 34 in faculty salaries among public universities in the AAU.

The MU Strategic Operating Plan seeks to address the salary levels, among other issues, by taking back 2 percent of all general operating funds from nearly every department.

Other proposals would increase College of Engineering fees for both residents and nonresidents by $4.30 and $6.30 per credit hour, respectively; College of Business fees for undergraduates and graduate students by $7.00 and $8.00 per credit hour, respectively; and the College of Human Environmental Sciences fee by $10.00 per credit hour.

Those fees are currently $109.60 for residents and $149.60 for nonresidents in the College of Engineering; $72.40 for undergraduates and $85 for graduate students in the College of Business; and $43.50 per credit hour for College of Human Environmental Sciences students.

The College of Arts and Science proposed an increase from $25 to $30 per credit hour. According to the proposal documents, the college plans to eventually increase that fee to $40 per credit hour over a period of few years.

MU is also proposing a tuition increase matching the inflation rate for resident undergraduate and graduate students, and an increase of 3 percent for all non-resident students.

Under the Higher Education Student Funding Act, public universities and colleges in Missouri cannot increase tuition for resident undergraduates exceeding the change in the consumer price index without a waiver from the Commissioner of Higher Education. Wolfe said the December 2014 CPI is scheduled to be released on January 16, and is currently estimated to be between 1.0 and 1.3 percent.

Supplemental fees are not restricted by the Higher Education Student Funding Act, but require the approval of the Board of Curators.

The board will vote on the proposed increases when it meets in Columbia on February 5 and 6.

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