Tuition increase looms as Nixon proposes 7% cut to UM funding

The UM system Board of Curators will vote on tuition rates next week.
Gov. Jay Nixon speaks to state representatives and the media during the annual State of the State address Wednesday at the state capitol building in Jefferson City. Nixon proposed a 7 percent cut to the UM system funding as part of his state budget plan for the next fiscal year.

Interim UM system President Steve Owens responded to Gov. Jay Nixon's proposal to cut UM funding by 7 percent with gratitude Thursday. The governor released his state budget proposal, which cuts $29.9 million from UM system state funding, as part of his State of the State address Wednesday.

“Even with the efficiencies and costs reductions in place, this budget reduction will be significantly felt and necessitate further reductions by our campuses, challenging our ability to provide a quality education,” Owens said in a statement. “Given the state’s projected revenue shortfalls, we appreciate the governor’s support for the state’s higher education needs in this tough economic environment.”

In total, Nixon’s proposed budget will cut funding from four-year higher education institutions by $53.6 million. In his State of the State address, Nixon said keeping tuition stable for the past two years was a significant accomplishment for the state.

“So while tuition soared by double digits around the nation, Missouri schools kept tuition and fees flat for two years running,” Nixon said. “Even if some schools impose modest tuition increases next year, we’ll have protected Missouri families from the sharp tuition spikes seen in other states.”

Although he reduced funding for higher education, Nixon proposed increased funding for the A+ Scholarship Program and Bright Flight scholarships as well as Access Missouri grants.

The state’s cut of roughly $29.8 million coupled with rising expenses will leave the UM system facing a budget funding gap of nearly $72 million. With the numbers in mind, it appears likely tuition will increase at MU for the next academic year.

“We strongly feel that if, in light of the projected decrease in state support, we don’t raise tuition and required fees, we will struggle to sustain the quality that we need in order to provide the type of education that we need for the students,” said Nikki Krawitz, UM system vice president of finance and administration.

Krawitz said the system does not want to see an increase of greater than 10 percent.

In order to raise tuition, the system will have to appeal to a provision in Senate Bill 389. The bill restricts Missouri four-year institutions from raising their tuition by more than the increase in the Consumer Pricing Index. Since its enactment in 2007, the bill has not been appealed.

“Nobody for sure knows how it all will work out,” Budget Director Tim Rooney said. “We’re in a little bit of uncharted waters.”

The UM system Board of Curators will meet Jan. 27 and 28 at MU to make a decision on the impending tuition hike.

“Next week, our curators will set tuition rates for FY 2012 with an eye toward balancing the need for quality programs with access and affordability while taking into consideration budget constraints,” Owens said in a statement.

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