Early in the budgeting process this year for Missouri government, it was apparent the U.S. recession was having an effect that could significantly lower state revenue. Gov. Jay Nixon looked for a way to maintain funding levels for higher education and asked for a trade-off: continue to fund state colleges and universities at current levels in exchange for no increase in tuition and fees.
Earlier this month, the Southeast Missouri State University regents accepted the plan.
Tuition has been rising steadily at state-funded institutions for several years. While the cost of an education at Missouri's public colleges and universities remains well below similar costs for private schools, the steady string of increases has pinched the pocketbooks of students who work to pay for their education and the pocketbooks of parents who write checks for their sons and daughters to go to college.
Without the funding guarantee proposed by the governor, state-funded schools faced deep cuts reminiscent of reduced funding several years ago when the nation was in another recession. Even with the pledge of continued state funding, Southeast faces a shortfall but is making internal reductions in both instructional and noninstructional costs to cover the gap.
The trade-off appears to be a sensible plan that avoids having to make major changes in the delivery of higher education. At the same time, students have been buffered, at least for the coming year, from another round of costs in tuition and fees.