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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

MSU Prepares for Fall Tuition Hike, Considering Other Options to Accommodate Budget Cuts

Clif Smart
Scott Harvey

Missouri State University has taken the first steps toward managing an 8.9 percent budget reduction for fiscal year 2018.

On Friday, a day after Gov. Eric Greitens unveiled his proposed state budget, the school’s Board of Governor’s withdrew its tuition freeze.

“So accordingly I believe it’s in our best interest to book a .7 percent increase in tuition and fees. For an undergraduate in-state student who is taking 30 hours that results in a [$47.54] increase,” said university President Clif Smart.

The increases apply to the current 2016-2017 school year, but will be waived for the present semester and for students enrolling in summer classes.

“And so we will evaluate then whether that will go into effect in the fall, but again no increased costs for our students this semester or this summer.”

The university had held tuition flat last year as a result of increased state appropriations. But given last month’s budget restriction from the current fiscal year, that “increase has vanished,” says Smart. MSU is making up for the $6.3 million withholding, or 7.1 percent, with reserves. The tuition increase approved Friday, which does not immediately impact students, paves the way for such an increase in the fall.

Smart noted that students will not bear the entire burden of making up the budget deficit. Officials will also be exploring what cuts can be made to programs or personnel.

“We’re not yet ready to make recommendations about what programs or personnel should be eliminated or what level of tuition increase are appropriate,” says Smart, “We think it important to work through our budget committees and our processes to make the right decisions and that will take some time.”  

Gov. Greiten’s proposal for FY 2018 puts the MSU appropriations at $83.4 million, $8.2 million less than the current fiscal year. The 8.9 percent drop is equal across all public four-year institutions. This is an ongoing reduction, says Smart.

“And so it doesn’t make good fiscal sense to try and spend down our reserves to fund this hole. We have to find ongoing revenue sources that either have to be increased or ongoing expenses that have to be decreased.”

The newly released budget also omits MSU’s collaboration with the University of Missouri S&T for a mechanical engineering program. Over $800,000 in remaining dollars for the joint program had previously been withheld.

“Makes it very difficult for us to proceed with that program unless we’re able to convince the legislature to put that money back in… We think that is a critical program for our area, it’s a program for workforce development; it’s a program that moves our state forward. So we’ll be fighting on that issue.”

Earlier Friday, during the Board’s finance committee meeting, it agreed to a set of guiding principles from which to base its budget FY 2018 cuts. They include maintaining quality and affordability, continuing growth and a commitment to valuing and supporting people through the process.

Smart delivered statistics showing Missouri State in the bottom half of all four-year state institutions for tuition and fees. As a state, Missouri’s public universities have raised in-state tuition and fees 5.4 percent over the past five years, he said. During that same span, inflation was nearly 8 percent and public universities throughout the United States increased their prices by 9.5 percent. All the while, state funding for Missouri higher education per full-time student is the lowest compared to all eight contiguous states.

“When people talk about becoming more efficient, let me just say we’re starting a position that is very efficient. We are very careful with how we spend tax dollars. We are even more careful with how we spend our students’ dollars because we know it’s precious to them.”

Smart noted that during this time, the universities that are willing to take risk and invest to improve quality and grow will “come out of these circumstances leaders in our state.”

“We are not going into a bunker,” he said. “We are going to aggressively reinvest in the things that will make us stronger and grow us.” 

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