MU system president talks sense of spending during visit

Saturday, March 8, 2003

The University of Missouri needs to be affordable for students and accountable to the public whose taxes help fund it, the president of the four-campus system said Friday during a trip through Southeast Missouri.

"We should not be wasteful of the resources entrusted to us," said Dr. Elson Floyd, who became the school's 21st president in January. Floyd met with the Southeast Missourian's editorial board in Cape Girardeau before attending a reception at the university's outreach and extension center in Jackson.

Floyd said university officials remain committed to the statewide extension programs, including those dealing with agriculture, small-business development and nutrition.

Floyd said the University of Missouri system --which operates schools in Columbia, St. Louis, Rolla and Kansas City and has total enrollment of over 60,000 students -- must control tuition costs.

"We must make sure we are not pricing students out," he said.

Inflation as gauge

Floyd said he will ask the system's board of curators later this month to approve a plan to increase student fees no more than the rate of inflation.

"It's a different way of looking at finances for higher education," Floyd said. Student fees increased by 9 percent last year to help offset state funding cuts for the University of Missouri system.

Student fees at Southeast Missouri State University jumped by about 15 percent last year before the regents added another $6-per-credit-hour surcharge to deal with added cuts in state funding. For in-state undergraduate students it amounted to a combined increase of $23 a credit hour.

Floyd said students will continue to enroll in college, particularly during tough economic times. But he said University of Missouri officials owe it to the public and taxpayers to keep student fees in check.

"That is another form of taxation," Floyd said of student fees. "I am not a university president that believes in the higher-tuition model."

Funding remains a serious concern, however, in the face of tight state funding, he said. Personnel costs make up 80 percent of the University of Missouri system's budget, and many of those contracts already are in place for next school year even though the Missouri Legislature has yet to decide on state funding for the campuses, Floyd said.

The state's public colleges could use more tax dollars, but that won't happen without a tax increase, Floyd said. At this point, he said voters wouldn't support any tax measure for higher education.

"It's going to be a very tough year," Floyd said.

335-6611, extension 123

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