Gov. Jay Nixon wants public universities in Missouri to keep their tuition the same for the 2014-15 school year in exchange for an increase of $36.7 million in his budget request for higher education.
“To keep our economy growing,” the governor said Wednesday at Missouri State University in Springfield, “we need every student in Missouri to have access to an affordable college education and to graduate without a heavy burden of debt. Our efforts to hold down tuition and support our scholarship and financial aid programs have helped make Missouri a national leader in college affordability.”
In his budget proposal that will be submitted to lawmakers next month, Nixon said he would seek a 5 percent increase for the state’s public universities. The money would be awarded as part of a performance-based funding model that took effect this year.
That system allocates money to Missouri’s public colleges and universities based on their performance in several areas, including student retention and progress, graduation rate and degree completion, financial responsibility and efficiency, the quality of student learning and goals that are specific to each institution.
The goals were drawn up as a result of a higher education summit convened by Nixon in 2011.
“Nothing will have a greater impact on the future of our economy, and our state, than the commitment we make now to education,” the governor said in Springfield. “To continue preparing the workforce of tomorrow, I’m proposing a significant investment in Missouri’s colleges and universities.”
In response to the governor’s request for a tuition freeze, the University of Missouri released this statement from system President Tim Wolfe:
“Gov. Nixon's proposal of a 5 percent increase to higher education's core budget is a great first step in the process and we will be consulting with the Board of Curators about keeping tuition levels flat.”
Late Wednesday, David Russell, Missouri's commissioner for higher education, released this statement:
"The Missouri Department of Higher Education strongly supports Gov. Jay Nixon’s announcement today that he will recommend to the Missouri General Assembly a five percent appropriations increase for the state’s public four-year universities. The governor’s plan would provide a much needed boost for Missouri’s struggling universities.
"Our universities have responded to lean times by working together to cut costs, holding the line on tuition increases, and embracing initiatives to improve graduation rates and help students complete requirements for their degrees. Governor Nixon’s recommendation is another sign of his support for what these institutions are trying to do for students.
"The university chief executives will have to discuss the governor’s request that they hold tuition flat for the 2014-15 academic year with their respective governing boards. I am confident that the governing boards will seriously consider the Governor’s request to hold tuition and fees flat for the 2014-2015 academic year, given his strong support for additional education funding for our public universities and state student aid programs."
A statement from Nixon’s office said that tuition and fees at public four-year institutions in Missouri have increased at the lowest rate of any state since 2008, just 5 percent, according to research from the College Board.
Last month, the University of Missouri Board of Curators heard a proposal for a 1.7 percent rise in tuition for the 2014-15 school year. That increase would match the projected national rate of inflation.
State law requires that public universities limit their tuition increases to the Consumer Price Index as released in December or seek a waiver from the Department of Higher Education. The CPI was projected to be 1.7 percent.
If the tuition increase for the four-campus system proposed in November is approved by curators in January, yearly tuition at the four campuses in the University of Missouri system would average $9,464. The Rolla campus, Missouri Science & Technology, would have the highest annual tuition at $9,510, followed by $9,474 in St. Louis, $9,456 in Kansas City and $9,415 in Columbia.
University officials say comparable tuition at public doctoral institutions nationwide averages $9,804, while tuition at private doctoral institutions averages $36,171.