Proposed legislation would limit tuition hikes

HB 614 would prohibit tuition increases on students already enrolled in a public Missouri university.

Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, proposed a Missouri House bill that would prohibit public higher education institutions from charging students a tuition rate that would exceed the amount charged when the student first enrolled.

The freeze on a student’s tuition rate would last for a maximum of five years as long as the student remained a full-time student. If a student left for a period of time and then wanted to return to school, they would need to abide by the current tuition.

“I think it will encourage students to complete their degree work,” Holsman said. “Because if they leave for whatever reason, they have to come back at the new tuition rate.”

Holsman said the bill would help with college student retention.

“Vice President (Joe) Biden just recently—in the last month or so—said he wanted governors to work on how to keep students in college and this piece of legislation like this would help students stay in school,” Holsman said.

If passed, the tuition freeze would only apply to Missouri residents, not out-of-state students. Holsman did not believe any similar legislation had been enacted in other states and said universities haven’t yet taken a position on the legislation.

“They haven’t publicly or officially taken a position on the bill,” Holsman said. “Traditionally, the university hasn’t been in favor of anything that would put a price control on tuition.”

According to the online text of HB 614, for students that changed majors during their time at the university, they would be charged what they would have been charged for that program when they originally enrolled in the program.

The bill was supposed to be heard earlier this week, but Holsman said they have to reschedule. A hearing has not been scheduled yet.

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, whose district encompasses the MU campus, said she can sympathize with the idea behind the bill from having had two children in college at once. It is hard for parents and students to look at the price in the college catalog and then have to eventually pay a different price than was listed, she said.

Still said the university had some statewide hearings about the issue several years ago and if this bill was passed, some say it could pose around 20 different sets of tuition standards for students and that the practicalities of the bill concern her.

“It could possibly require the university to kind of up the tuition in anticipation,” Still said. “If they needed it, they’d need to go ahead and up it before students started.”

Still said if this was the case, there would be no real savings for students.

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