Missouri Legislators Warned Over College Fee Difficulties

Public university presidents have told the House committee this week that Missouri is rapidly out-pricing students from low to moderate-income households from a college education.

Administrators warn that despite tuition increases having been limited over the last several years, next year's 12.5 percent shrink of state funds, proposed by Gov. Jay Nixon, cannot be counteracted by administrative savings alone, writes Virginia Young at STL Today.

"I could fire every administrator I have and I couldn't come up with $15 million," says Missouri State University interim President Clifton Smart, referring to the amount of money the university is required to recoup.

However, the University of Central Missouri, Warrensbury has already stabilized tuition increases to an average of 1.4 throughout the last three years by means of a hiring freeze and slaying of eight academic departments.

However, should legislators assent to Nixon's proposal, state appropriations will allocate less than 40 percent of schools' funding, "a fundamental threshold, moving us to the edge," of insuring college affordability, says President Chuck Ambrose.

While legislators are under no delusions that the state's $500 million budget shortfall will render them unlikely to offer significant relief, but they have expressed their want to ease Nixon's blows to the budget.

"It's sad," said Committee Chairman Mike Lair, R-Chillicothe.

"I wish it were not this way."

Kenneth Dobbins, president of South-eastern Missouri State University, says the difficulty is that "it's a sum-zero game. If you give to someone, you've got to take from someone else."

However, given that Missouri's aim is to increase their number of college graduate residents, alongside insuring college accessibility to qualified students.

Smart said:

"It appears to me there is a disconnect between what we say is important — our collective intent — and our collective actions."

He later added that a tax credit overhaul could generate $200 million for state coffers, as several of the college presidents illustrated that Nixon's proposed motion would result in state cuts of 24.5 percent during the last three years.

John Jasinskin, president of Northwest Missouri State University, questioned legislators on the kind of messages being sent if the state contributes more towards the imprisonment of non-violent offenders, while the University of Central Missouri has to turn down the thermostat at 5:15pm every day because Nixon's reductions would result in an overall loss of $14.6 million in the course of three years.

Administrators have tallied more ways in which they have handled previous cuts, including postponing building works, promoting early retirement, shrinking scholarships and increasing enrollment, but if Nixon's cuts are as significant as suggested, university reserves will have to be dipped into as well as having to increase tuition, with some classes only made available at scattered intervals.

"But we're at the point now where we'll have to have a significant increase," Smart said.

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