Funding woes dominate Southeast agenda

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Students will pay more to live in Southeast Missouri State University housing next school year, but regents said they hope to rein in room fee increases once the school has completed major repairs and renovations to aging residence halls at a cost of $11.3 million.

Those improvements are being done over 10 years. The plan went into effect two years ago, with the final repair and renovation projects scheduled for fiscal 2010.

The fee increases, approved by the board of regents on Wednesday, will take effect this fall. They include a 4 percent increase in room charges and a 3 percent increase in meal charges. With the increases, students would pay an average of $5,366 in campus housing fees, including room and board charges, a cable television fee and a high-speed Internet connection fee. Students living in the new residence hall on Henderson Avenue will pay the most, more than $6,300 for the 10-month school year that begins in August.

School officials said the fee increases will fund continued repairs and improvements to residence halls as well as extended dining hours at the University Center. Planned improvements include major renovations to the high-rise Towers South and East residence halls within the next five years.

Dr. Ken Dobbins, Southeast president, said the university is putting $800,000 to $900,000 a year into a fund to pay for housing repairs and improvements. Regent Doyle Privett of Kennett said he hopes the university administration eventually will have surplus funds that could be used to lessen student housing fee increases.

Don Dickerson, president of the Board of Regents, agreed with Privett. "I think that is a desirable end to work for," he said.

At its one-hour open meeting, the regents also voted to increase rental charges at its two Washington Street apartment buildings by 3.5 percent. With the increase, the monthly rent will range from $278.51 for a one-bedroom efficiency apartment to $369.56 for a two-bedroom top-floor apartment with balcony. The apartments are rented to students who are either married, have children or are 25 years of age or older.

While housing and meal charges are set, school officials said they don't know yet how much they'll have to increase tuition. Dobbins said it could be June before any tuition package can be presented to the regents.

Waiting for word

Regents said there was little point in discussing the budget until state lawmakers finish crafting appropriations bills. "We're just chasing a ghost," said Regent Brad Bedell of Sikeston.

Dobbins said some universities have increased tuition by $10 a credit hour for the coming school year. But Southeast's president said it's difficult to predict state funding right now. "Until we know what the appropriation will be, it's hard to balance the budget," he said.

The university has experienced cuts in state funding totaling more than $12 million over the past year and a half. Those figures don't include the normal 3 percent withholding by the state.

Southeast raised tuition, closed Parker Pool, eliminated several jobs and reshuffled administrative positions over the past year to make up for the state funding cuts.

The regents twice raised tuition last year, boosting it by $23 a credit hour for in-state undergraduates and $31 a credit hour for out-of-state undergraduates. The cost to graduate students ranged from $26.50 a credit hour for in-state residents and $36 a credit hour for out-of-state residents.

Regents said students can expect some tuition increase for the coming school year. But even a tuition increase might not make up for possible state funding cuts, school officials said.

Dickerson of Cape Girardeau said the regents may have to cut programs and personnel if the university's state funding is cut significantly for fiscal 2004 which begins July 1.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123 Wednesday, April 16

Action in open session

Welcomed Gail Robertson of Poplar Bluff as the newest member of the board. She replaces Kim Mothershead of Benton and will serve a six-year term running through Jan. 1, 2009.

Passed resolutions honoring retiring employees.

Adopted the five-year academic calendar.

Approved an industrial technology program to be offered at off-campus sites for students who have earned two-year degrees and want to obtain a baccalaureate degree.

Approved room and board rates for academic year 2003-2004.

Approved apartment rental charges.

Approved fiscal 2004 budget for campus housing.

Approved fiscal 2004 maintenance and repair budget.

Action in closed session

Named Dr. Sue Shepard, chairwoman of the educational administration and counseling department, as interim dean of the Southeast Missouri State University College of Education, at a salary of $83,000. Shepard will replace Dr. Shirley Stennis-Williams, who is retiring effective June 30. Shepard's appointment will take effect July 1.

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