SEMO regents approve tuition increase

Sunday, May 13, 2012
The front access to Academic Hall is blocked for construction Friday, April 20, 2012 at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Southeast Missouri State University students returning in the fall will face a higher tuition bill for a second straight year.

The university's board of regents approved raising tuition 3 percent for in-state students and 6 percent for out-of-state students starting in August. The board met Saturday in the Glenn Auditorium in Dempster Hall following spring commencement at the Show Me Center.

The rate of the increase is based on the projected amount the university would need to cover an 8 percent reduction in state appropriations for fiscal year 2013, although the state legislature's budget sent to Gov. Jay Nixon for review Thursday calls for Southeast to receive funding that is close to last year's levels.

Tuition increased 4.8 percent for in-state undergraduate students at the start of the 2011-2012 academic year following a two-year freeze.

University officials said plans for raising tuition were based on uncertainty surrounding the governor's signature on the state's proposed 2013 budget, which would provide $43,772,064 to Southeast, and of which around $885,000 is a result of a compromise in the state legislature earlier in the week.

The university's vice president of finance and administration, Kathy Mangels, said the increase will amount to $190 more per academic year for a full-time undergraduate student with 15 hours at the additional $6.50 per credit hour. Six dollars per credit hour will be added to in-state incidental fees for undergraduates, and 50 cents per credit hour would be added to general fees. The incidental fee for out-of-state students will rise by $12 per credit hour and they will also be assessed a 50-cent increase in general fees. Missouri graduate students will be charged an additional $8 per credit hour and out-of-state graduate students will pay $16 more per credit hour.

Officials said that even with the increases Southeast will still offer the second-lowest amount of tuition charged to in-state undergraduate students, at $225 per credit hour, when compared with Missouri State University, Central Missouri State University, Northwest Missouri State University and any branch of the University of Missouri system.

Increases in tuition at Missouri's public universities are tied to the Consumer Price Index through a state law that can assess penalties if they raise tuition by more than the rate of the previous year's inflation without permission. A 3 percent cap applies to this year, but additional slight increases are allowed at universities where tuition is below the state average.

Mangels said the budget review committee worked hard to balance the university's budget so it would not need to ask students to pay more than the capped amount. Student government representatives were included on the committee and voted in approval of the increases April 17.

Southeast's budget review committee has been evaluating how to deal with possible cuts in state appropriations for 2013 since February. In January, Nixon proposed cutting 12.5 percent from higher education, but later softened the proposal to an 8 percent cut upon announcing an intention to help fill the funding gap with $40 million the state should receive as part of a settlement with mortgage lenders. The state has not yet received those funds, according to a check with Nixon's office Friday.

"This year was definitely a process of balancing," Mangels said. "We worked with the best information we had as far as state appropriations go, because all of that is going through the House and Senate as we are working on it."

Funding for universities equal to last year's levels was restored in the House when the legislature was in session, and an extra $2 million was added to appropriations for Southeast by Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville. That add-on, however, ran into opposition in the Senate led by Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, as the deadline neared for the legislature to submit a budget plan to the governor. A compromise over Southeast's funding was reached last week that may grant the university the largest share in a seven-way split of $3 million between several colleges if Nixon approves.

One-time money

University president Ken Dobbins said Southeast is grateful funding was restored in the legislature but that the university can't base its budget off only the proposed state budget, which happens to include a significant amount of one-time money.

"We're cautiously optimistic about what's happening, first of all, because the governor hasn't signed it, and second of all, I don't have a crystal ball that will tell me revenues are going to increase for next year," Dobbins said.

As far as the university is concerned, Dobbins said, the state appropriations granted back to Southeast's budget this year might not last forever, and there could always be other budget problems besides reduced state revenue. For that reason, he said, a tuition increase now is necessary.

Plans for balancing the university's budget also include reductions in expenditures in response to a projected 8 percent cut, according to Mangels. Planned cost-cutting measures include combining the College of Science and Mathematics and the School of Polytechnic Studies into the College of Science, Technology and Agriculture, eliminating some vacant staff positions and replacing retiring tenured faculty with nontenured instructors. Three percent will be cut from instructional operating budgets, and 4 percent will be cut from noninstructional operating budgets, Mangels said.

Mangels said the committee's ability to keep a tuition increase minimal is also possible because of dollars being added to the budget from the revenue brought in by growing enrollment at the university.

Dobbins said that despite the need to raise tuition, the university's administration and board are keeping in mind the educational needs in the region and a need for it to be available at a low to moderate cost.

"Our board is very in tune to not increasing fees if they don't have to," he said.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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