UM Curators Approve Tuition Freeze, Order Investigation Of Rape Allegations
Updated at 10:12 p.m. with investigator hired for Courey case:
Tuition for resident undergraduate students at the four campuses of the University of Missouri will remain flat for the coming school year after a unanimous vote by the Board of Curators Wednesday.
Meeting in Columbia, the curators went along unanimously with a recommendation by university President Tim Wolfe. He in turn was agreeing with a wish expressed by Gov. Jay Nixon last week in his State of the State address.
In his speech, Nixon said that in exchange for an additional $100 million for the state’s public colleges and universities, the schools should freeze their tuition for the 2014-15 school year. The $100 million includes $22 million for students in the so-called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math.
At the curators’ meeting in Columbia, Tom Richards, the university system’s interim vice president for finance, said that a 1.5 percent tuition increase that was discussed by the curators in St. Louis in November would have resulted in an increase in revenue of $9.7 million.
But, he added, if the governor’s recommendation is approved by the General Assembly, the university system would receive an extra $20.7 million. The result he said, would be a net increase of $11 million.
That money, Richards added, would be available for any programs. The STEM initiative would add another $12 million for the university’s appropriations from the state.
As a result of the curators' vote, for the coming school year, tuition will be $8,103 in Kansas City, $8,220 in Columbia and Rolla and $9,474 in St. Louis.
A statement released by the university said that on average, the system has raised tuition and fees just 2.2 percent a year for the past five years, compared with 6 percent by comparable institutions in surrounding states. Overall, it said, resident tuition and fees at all public colleges and universities in Missouri saw the lowest rate of increase over the past five years of any state in the nation.
Enrollment at the University of Missouri has risen 34 percent in the past 13 years to more than 75,000 students.
Don Downing of Webster Groves, chairman of the board of curators, said in the statement:
“The University of Missouri continues to set the pace nationally in keeping education affordable for our students while also providing the resources necessary for the university to remain a quality, academic institution. We are proud that we are able to make our mark with tuition rates below the national average compared to similar institutions, combined with our high-quality education, groundbreaking research and service to the state.”
System President Wolfe added: “This year’s tuition freeze, combined with our modest increases in previous years and constant commitment to identifying ways to be more efficient and effective that last year alone resulted in $47 million in savings to the university, help ensure that an education from the four campuses of the University of Missouri System remains affordable to all students that desire one.”
After passing the tuition freeze with no discussion, the curators went on to approve increases in a variety of fees for the system’s campuses in Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis. They also increased tuition for graduate students and for nonresident undergraduates. The nonresident undergraduate tuition hikes ranged from 1.5 percent in St. Louis and Kansas City to 3.0 percent in Columbia and Rolla.
Nixon has frequently pointed out that Missouri has been among the nation’s leaders in keeping tuition increases low at its public colleges and universities. After visiting a school in Fort Zumwalt Wednesday, he told reporters that he hopes lawmakers approve his request for more money for the state’s public universities, particularly for the jobs in targeted areas like mental health and STEM that could result.
But, he acknowledged, it’s too early to tell what may happen.
“We haven’t even had the Super Bowl yet,” Nixon said.
Outside counsel hired in Courey case
Wednesday night, the university announced it had hired an outside, independent legal counsel to investigate how the matters related to former Mizzou student Sasha Menu Courey had been handled.
Once the independent counsel is chosen, it was directed to report its findings and conclusions to the curators no later than April 11, 2014, the board’s next meeting in Rolla.
The board stipulated that any firm that is hired must be independent from the university.
Courey, a former swimmer for the school's Columbia campus, committed suicide in 2011. A year earlier, she had said she was raped, an allegation that did not gain public attention until after her death. This week, ESPN published an extensive investigation of the case, prompting finger-pointing on campus and a new investigation by the Columbia police.
In a statement following the curators' decision to adopt Wolfe's recommendation for an outside investigation, Downing said:
“Ms. Courey’s story is very tragic and sad, and our sympathy and prayers are with her family, friends and teammates,. The board wants to take an independent look at what happened here. Separately, our chancellors are promptly reviewing their campus policies and procedures concerning the prevention and reporting of sexual assaults and availability of mental health services, and President Wolfe has rightly committed to devoting additional resources to the extent those policies and procedures are found to be lacking.”
“Sexual assaults are all too common on college campuses across our country, as President Obama emphasized last week. We need to do all we can do to address these issues at the University of Missouri, and provide appropriate assistance to those who are victimized.”