Higher ed funding

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The announcement last month that Missouri's state-funded colleges and universities will hold the line for a second year on tuition and fees came as good news to students and tuition-paying parents. But there are still enough uncertainties to be cause for concern.

In the face of sinking state revenue, the colleges and universities agreed to a freeze on tuition and fees. Gov. Jay Nixon sought an extension of the freeze for the coming year and pledged to propose funding for higher education at 95 percent of the current level. State funding would drop by $42 million for the affected institutions.

In the decade before the current freeze went into effect, colleges and universities had increased tuition by an average of 7.5 percent a year. The most recent increase at Southeast Missouri State University, for the 2008-2009 school year, raised tuition by 4.1 percent

The biggest question mark is whether Nixon's proposed budget can accurately forecast state revenue in the next fiscal year. A shortfall of $1 billion-plus is anticipated, but it could be even worse.

This means making major cuts throughout state government, a process that goes through the legislature. It will be spring before a final budget is adopted and the final outcome of funding for higher education is set.

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