Audit highlights rising tuition

Friday, May 2, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Although annual tuition at Southeast Missouri State University increased by nearly one-third over the past five years, it is among the most affordable of Missouri's 13 four-year public colleges and universities, according to a state audit released Thursday.

Driven primarily by a reduction of taxpayer funding for higher education, average tuition at Missouri's public institutions rose 37 percent from the 1998-1999 school year through the current term.

Meanwhile, the ability of parents and students to keep up with higher education costs is lagging, with Missourians' personal income growing by 11 percent over the same period.

Though some schools' per pupil expenditures increased by as much as 26 percent, the statewide average was 10 percent -- the same rate the Consumer Price Index grew during the period examined. Southeast's per pupil expenditures rose at a rate equal to the statewide average.

The state auditor's report urges universities to control expenses and streamline operations where possible, particularly administrative costs.

Prior to the recent hard budgetary times, student fees paid for 25 percent of the cost of an education at Southeast with state funding covering the rest of the tab, said university president Ken Dobbins.

Today the student's share is 40 percent and could have been higher if not for steps the Southeast board of regents took to control costs, he said.

"We have been looking at our costs, streamlining and minimizing increases to students," Dobbins said

30 percent increaseA year of undergraduate tuition at Southeast cost $3,105 in the 1998-1999 school year. This year it was $4,120 -- a 30 percent increase from five years ago.

That growth rate was the lowest among Missouri's four regional universities and sixth-lowest among all public colleges, ahead of only Truman State University in Kirksville and the four campuses of the University of Missouri System.

Missouri Southern State College in Joplin experienced the highest rate of tuition growth at 67 percent. That school was also cited in the audit for excessive increases in administrative costs, which went up 71 percent.

In terms of the actual dollar cost, Southeast had the fourth-lowest tuition in the state. Only Missouri Southern, Lincoln University in Jefferson City and Harris-Stowe State College in St. Louis cost less to attend.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis had the most expensive tuition this year.

Missouri's average tuition is second only to Illinois among neighboring states. With 11 percent of state general revenue earmarked for higher education, Missouri ranks dead last among the border states in that category, which Nebraska leads with 20 percent of its general revenue thus dedicated.

With additional budget cuts likely for the coming fiscal year Quentin Wilson, commissioner of the Department of Higher Education, said schools will have to continue to discover ways to do more with less.

"We can't blame an inability to improve performance on a lack of finances," Wilson said.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608TUITION RISING

Changes in annual tuition at Missouri's 13 public colleges and universities over five years from the 1998-1999 through 2002-2003 school yearsSchool1998-99 2002-03Percent increase
Missouri Southern State College $2,321 $3,886 67
Lincoln University$2,396 $3,968 66
Missouri Western State College $2,660 $4,064 53
Harris-Stowe State College$2,490 $3,760 51
Central Missouri State University$2,730 $4,110 51
Northwest Missouri State University$2,813 $4,120 46
Southwest Missouri State University $3,214 $4,274 33Southeast Missouri State University$3,105 $4,035 30
University of Missouri-Kansas City$4,421 $5,573 26
Truman State University$3,426 $4,300 26
University of Missouri-St. Louis$4,636 $5,813 25
University of Missouri-Rolla$4,522 $5,661 25
University of Missouri-Columbia$4,439 $5,552 25
Statewide average$3,321 $4,547 37

SOURCES: State Auditor's Office, Department of Higher Education

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