Gov. Nixon urges universities to help keep their own costs down

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Southeast Missouri State University administrator says the institution will confront likely big state budget cuts with enrollment growth and revolutionary methods of delivering higher education.

Gov. Jay Nixon pledged Wednesday to pressure Missouri's colleges and universities to hold down tuition increases even while warning that they likely will take "substantial cuts" in the next state budget, more than the roughly $50 million cut this year. Nixon also encouraged Missouri's higher education institutions to eliminate lightly used degree programs, collaborate on redesigning common courses and try to boost the number of people obtaining college degrees.

"We're taking a much more comprehensive and -- in my view -- thoughtful view of what we can do to position our institutions to competitively educate more students for years to come," Nixon said.

A Southeast Missouri State University committee has identified $8.73 million in budget cuts, nearly midway to the goal of trimming $20 million out of the budget over the next five years. Southeast provost Ronald Rosati said there are few areas left to cut without seriously hurting programming.

So, Rosati said, the university is looking to grow its way out, continuing to build on record enrollment that topped 11,000 students this year. And, the provost said, Southeast is engaged in creating what he describes as a "revolution in higher education techniques."

"It's a blend of personnel strategies and technology applications in the classroom," Rosati said, adding that greater dependence on technology won't bring faculty job cuts.

Missouri colleges and universities are in the second year of a tuition freeze they voluntarily implemented as part of a deal brokered by Nixon to avert deep state funding cuts. But the deal expires before the 2011-2012 academic year.

Nixon said he is not expecting colleges and universities to respond to budget cuts with substantial tuition increases. He declined to specify what percentage of a tuition increase he would consider to be reasonable.

The governor wants to eliminate courses producing only a few graduates. At the urging of Nixon's administration, Missouri's public colleges and universities have undertaken a course review to identify programs graduating fewer than 10 bachelor's degree students annually, five master's degree students or three doctoral students.

Rosati said Southeast has conducted program reviews for several years, long before the state's mandate. The university's board of regents recently approved the elimination of two programs, and a total of nine will either be reorganized into new programs or deleted, Rosati said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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