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Nixon proposes funding boost, tuition freeze for Missouri universities

Gov. Jay Nixon says legislators blew their chance to have a say on bonding for a stadium in St. Louis.
File photo by Bill Greenblatt I UPI
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is proposing a $55.7 million increase in higher education performance fuding for the 2017 fiscal year budget.

Flanked by the heads of two-year and four-year colleges and universities, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced Monday in Jefferson City that the heads of Missouri's higher education institutions have agreed to freeze tuition for the 2016-2017 school year. He then said he was proposing a $55.7 million increase in higher education performance funds for the 2017 fiscal year.

This is the fourth time since 2009 that the governor paired a tuition freeze with a boost in higher education funding.

“That’s good for students, good for families and it’s good for our economy,” Nixon said during his press conference. “Because the less debt students take on when they’re in school, the more they can spend when they graduate. Buying a car, starting a business and pursuing their dreams.”

Boards of the various public colleges and universities have yet to set tuition rates for the next school year.

Earlier this year, curators of the four-campus University of Missouri systems increased tuition by 0.8 percent for the 2015-16 school year.

State law limits the system’s tuition increase to the national Consumer Price Index, unless the school wants to seek a waiver from the Department of Higher Education. Preliminary figures discussed by the curators at their meeting in St. Louis last December had pegged the likely tuition hike next year at 1.8 percent, the projected CPI increase. But when the actual numbers were released by the Labor Department, the index had risen just 0.8 percent in 2014. The department highlighted the sharp decline in gasoline prices as a major factor in the year-to-year drop.

Additionally, Nixon said the colleges and universities agreed to dedicate more than $9 million of the proposed funding increase to programs and initiatives related to science, technology, engineering and math projects.

“And quite frankly, with all they’ve got going on, that’s the very natural step for all of these folks,” Nixon said. “That’s where the fastest growing, highest-paying jobs are. So we’re putting more dollars toward helping students earn degrees in these fields.”

Ultimately though, the Missouri General Assembly has the final say in whether to appropriate any additional higher education funds. And Chris Dunn – a staffer for House Budget Chairman Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage – tweeted that the governor’s announcement may be premature:

St. Louis Public Radio's Dale Singer contributed information to this story.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.