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March 17, 2011 Volume 32, No. 24

State approves UM tuition waiver

The Commissioner of Higher Education has approved the University of Missouri System’s request for a penalty waiver on its tuition increase. The decision will allow the System to raise tuition and required fees an average 5.5 percent for in-state, undergraduate students. The  Board of Curators approved the tuition increase in February. At MU, tuition will rise 5.8 percent starting this summer.

The waiver was required under a state-law that caps tuition increases at the rate of inflation or pay a penalty.

In it’s review of UM’s waiver request, the commissioner's office noted:

  • Tuition increases over the past three years were only slightly higher than the rise in inflation, while the decrease in state appropriations over that period is roughly 12.2 percent.
  • Since 1998, UM has undertaken measures to cut, avoid or defer more than $247 million in operating costs.
  • The system’s fiscal situation raises concerns about maintaining quality in academic programs, student services and physical facilities.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has proposed a 7 percent reduction in state funds for higher education in 2012. Even after a tuition increase, MU still faces a $21 million shortfall in fiscal 2012, which starts July 1. Included in that amount is a 2 percent pay raise for faculty and staff.

Part of the budget gap will be filled with a $4 million one-time transfer from the Mizzou Advantage initiative. The campus could also tap a $9 million reserve, said Tim Rooney, MU’s budget officer.

 In a statement, UM Interim President Steve Owens said the commissioner found that university officials had demonstrated sensitivity to the issue of affordability by committing 20 percent of the new revenue gained from the tuition and fee increase to additional financial aid for the neediest students.

“Our goal was to increase tuition the least amount possible while maintaining quality and affordability,” Owens said. “I think we struck the right balance. The university remains committed to providing a quality, yet affordable, education for Missouri citizens.”