Lab work: Student fee increases will improve SEMO's aging science labs

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Southeast Board of Regents increased the general fee by $3 rather than the proposed $4 a credit hour.

Southeast Missouri State University doesn't let prospective science students tour Magill Hall's antiquated lab rooms for fear they could lose those students to better-equipped colleges.

The school's board of regents hopes to change that situation. The board voted to increase the per-credit-hour general fee by $1 each year for the next six years to help fund nearly $5.5 million in lab replacements and renovations over the next nine years.

Students say some high schools, including Cape Girardeau Central High School, have better science labs than the 49-year-old facilities in Magill Hall, biology professor Walt Lilly told the board of regents on Monday.

The aging labs have inadequate ventilation equipment to handle chemical fumes. Some of the pipes are exposed, making them vulnerable to corrosion from acidic chemicals.

"This is a disaster waiting to happen," said Dr. Chris McGowan, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. "Everything in here gets corroded."

Southeast Missouri State University regents raised student fees Monday but only after scaling back some of the increases proposed by the university administration.

The regents raised tuition by $9 a credit hour for in-state students and by $18 a credit hour for out-of-state students as had been proposed by the school's Budget Review Committee and university president Dr. Ken Dobbins.

But the regents trimmed the general-fee increase in an effort to keep school affordable for students.

The board increased the general fee by $3 rather than $4 a credit hour. The increased include a $2 increase to help fund construction of an aquatic center and the $1 increase to fund Magill Hall lab renovations.

School officials originally proposed a $2 increase each of the next three years to fund the Magill Hall renovations.

But regents said they preferred to spread the increase out over six years. In addition, regents instructed the administration to delay other maintenance and repair projects where possible in order to proceed with science lab renovations.

Tuition and general fees this fall per credit hour will range from $183.50 for in-state undergraduates to $372.80 for out-of-state graduate students.

The board also scaled back increased tuition for students taking lower-division classes at Southeast's Bootheel higher education centers in Sikeston, Kennett and Malden.

Board members said too big an increase could have put Southeast's centers at a disadvantage in competing with Three Rivers Community College which operates rival centers in the region.

Southeast initially proposed to raise tuition at the centers for low-division courses by $5 a credit hour.

But regent Brad Bedell of Sikeston, Mo., objected to the plan. "I wish we could stay more competitively priced to Three Rivers in the market down there," he said.

"It seems a little on the high side," agreed board president John Tlapek of Cape Girardeau.

In the end, the board voted to raise tuition at the three centers by $4 a credit hour and impose a $5 per credit hour general fee to fund computer upgrades in the centers' classrooms.

As a result, students taking lower-division classes at the three centers will pay $119 a credit hour this fall, an increase of $9 a credit hour.

Three Rivers is raising tuition by a similar $9 a credit hour, Southeast officials said.

But the community college, which is locked in a bitter legal fight with Southeast concerning higher education centers, still will be cheaper overall.

Tuition and general fees at Three Rivers will total $108 a credit hour.

But Dobbins said he doesn't believe the price difference will keep students from enrolling in Southeast classes.

Bootheel students want to eventually get a four-year degree typically enroll in Southeast classes, Dobbins said.

"If they want associate degrees, they will pick Three Rivers," he said.

Provost Dr. Jane Stephens said Southeast has to charge more because it has higher-paid faculty than Three Rivers.

In other action, the board voted to increase room and board charges by an average of 3 percent -- the average room and board will now cost $5,764 a year -- and impose a $35 a semester laundry fee.

School officials said increased charges are necessary to pay for continued upgrades to residence halls and cover increased utility costs.

The regents also approved a new contract with Chartwells Dining Services to provide campus food service. The contract is for one year with options for nine annual renewals.

Students will pay just over $7 a day for a 15-meals-a-week plan, an increase of 1.5 percent over the fee this school year, officials said.

In addition, Chartwells has agreed to spend $3 million to renovate campus dining centers.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, ext. 123

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