Gov. Jay Nixon chose Missouri State University as his venue to sign the Fiscal Year 2017 higher education budget into law Wednesday.
The school in Springfield achieved all of its performance goals, equaling an increase of $3.6 million in funding.
“When we talk about holding tuition, we’ve not done that for free. Okay? We have put dollars in to make sure that at the same time we were getting increases in quality,” said Nixon.
$37.2 million will be allocated to schools based on performance measures. Overall, the budget passed by Missouri’s General Assembly provides an additional $71.3 million for the state’s universities and community colleges, freezing tuition for undergraduates. This brings state support for Missouri higher education operations to its highest level on record, Nixon says. It’s also the fourth time the state’s tuition will be held in check since 2009, when the governor took office.
“We graduated 36 percent more students last year from our public four-year institutions than the first year I was governor. And the average student, if they would have been paying what the average tuition increase was across this country, would be paying $1,800 a year more.”
The freeze lives up to an agreement Nixon signed with higher education presidents last September.
Meanwhile, the budget signed Wednesday institutes a $3.8 million cut to the University of Missouri’s administration, a response from lawmakers of their displeasure with how officials handled last year’s unrest at the Columbia campus. While the reduced figure is less than what was originally called for, Nixon disagreed with the approach.
“I don’t think that punishing students, or faculty or institutions through the budget for differences of opinions is the right way to do that. And I consequently – I’ve said that on a number of occasions and I’m glad on the base funding, as well as on bond funding, the legislature came around on that.”
He notes MU will receive additional funding based on its performance measures, like other Missouri public institutions.
In light of Wednesday’s bill signing, the Missouri State University Board of Governors will amend its FY 2017 budget passed earlier this year that called for a slight increase in undergraduate tuition. It was supposed to increase tuition from $205 to $206 per credit hour this fall. Additionally, Student services fees were to increase $8 per semester for students enrolled in seven or more credit hours. But the board had stipulated in its budget that tuition and fees for the 2016-2017 school year will be waived if the state legislature approves Gov. Nixon’s proposed higher education budget.
MSU President Clif Smart says given the House budget passed earlier this session, he was skeptical that the school would be able to reverse those tuition and fee increases. But he applauds the Senate’s work, the compromise bill between both chambers and efforts of Gov. Nixon for making higher education a priority.
“We’ll bring to the board in May, at the May meeting, a revised fee resolution that takes those two increases off,” says Smart.
Out-of-state and graduate student tuition increases of two percent, however, will go into effect at Missouri State as planned.
The state budget also provides a $2 million increase to allow MSU and Missouri S&T to expand their cooperative engineering program to an additional 150 students, in addition to the 200 existing enrollees.
Smart says keeping tuition flat keeps more students in school and encourages college attendance in the future. It’s been part of the reason for MSU’s enrollment growth in recent years, he says, and “it’s a reason why we’re expecting to be up three, four, 500 students again in the fall.”