Curators Weigh Increasing Tuition For Fall 2018 To Combat Budget Cuts

Apr 13, 2018

Credit KBIA/file photo

A case for voting to raise tuition between 1 and 2.1 percent next fall was presented to the UM System Board of Curators during a meeting Thursday at Missouri University of Science and Technology.

“You can’t save your way to success,” Curator John Phillips said after Ryan Rapp, vice president of finance and chief financial officer for the board, showed how the combination of a continued decline in state higher education funding and a tuition cap presents unique challenges for the four-campus system.

“Those things impact us more than other states,” Phillips said considering that Missouri ranks last of 50 states in tuition growth and 42nd in growth in state support per student. In its two major action items of the day, the full board approved a $134 million capital appropriations request for fiscal year 2020 and a five-year capital plan to improve and expand campus facilities that was finalized last month.

Rapp said this is the only time in the system’s history that he has seen a decline in state funding, outside a recession, three years in a row. He said that has eroded the system’s competitive edge as a Research 1 institution and its ability to attract and retain talent. “The economic impact that UM plays is critical,” UM System President Mun Choi said.

“Through our efforts in research and teaching, we have a direct and indirect impact of over $500 million.” Without continued support from the state, Missouri’s public universities will see their ability to train the work force, conduct research and contribute to outside market growth decline. System representatives plan to present that position at the state Capitol next week, Choi  said.\

Without steady revenue streams from the legislature, the burden of funding higher education has shifted to students. The Board of Curators will vote next month on whether to raise tuition by 2.1 percent, the maximum allowed by law. If the Missouri General Assembly approves the House’s budget plan, only 1 percent of that increase will be charged to students beginning next fall. The additional 1.1 percent would be added in the event that the governor withholds money from the higher education budget.

Last fall the board initiated an activity analysis overview so that it could better understand staff job functions. Although the report will not be completed until next month, Rapp said, the survey has confirmed so far that the majority of staff in human resources and finance work across multiple areas. The board will look for opportunities to streamline the delivery of those work functions.

The curators unanimously passed MU’s five-year campus capital project plan. The plan includes several building and renovation projects across the UM System’s four campuses and at MU Health Care. At MU, the plan will result in building the Translational Precision Medicine Complex, renovations and additions to the School of Nursing and an upgrade and maintenance for the Medical Science Building.

State capital appropriations request fiscal year 2020 The curators also unanimously approved just more than $134 million in the capital appropriations request for fiscal 2020.

The board also heard a report from Steve Graham, senior associate vice president for academic affairs for the UM System, about growing online education initiatives. Graham discussed online education’s ability to cut commuter costs, increase and shorten completion rates, and provide flexible, customizable learning initiatives. All board members agreed that the system should continue to aggressively pursue online education, but members did say there is more work to do to determine how to best serve students online. “What we haven’t come to grips with is how do you create a robust learning environment that students are interested in,” said Phillips. “We need to put together a task force for the University of Missouri’s online program,” Choi said.

The task forces would take an inventory of what is and isn’t working in the system now and look to online education success stories at other universities in the country. Recommendations for advancing philanthropic giving and suggestions on streamlining the structure of the three MU Health boards also were presented. The Board of Curators is set to reconvene Friday to finish its two-day meeting at Missouri S&T.