Tuition to stay at current levels

Saturday, December 15, 2001

Students at Southeast Missouri State University won't get saddled with a midyear tuition hike.

The Board of Regents voted Friday to keep fees at current levels for the spring semester by dipping into the university's reserve fund and cutting operating and equipment expenses to make up for a $900,000 cut in state spending for the school.

The board's action came within hours after Gov. Bob Holden announced in Jefferson City, Mo., that the state would cut spending and divert money from intended uses to make up for a $212 million budget shortfall.

The action included a 2 percent cut in state spending for Missouri's public colleges and universities, an amount totaling $18.8 million.

Including an earlier round of cuts announced in August, Southeast has lost more than $4.5 million to the state's budget woes.

Holden wants universities to make up the funding loss without hiking tuition. "I would hope parents would not be expecting higher costs for students," Holden said.

On the last day of the fall semester, as the campus emptied of students for Christmas break, Southeast's regents said they were relieved the spending cut was less than the $2.2 million or the 5 percent cut they had expected.

The regents had worried they would have to raise tuition by $8 a credit hour for the coming semester, to $115.80 per credit hour for in-state undergraduates and even more for out-of-state students and graduate students.

Dr. Ken Dobbins, university president, said Holden has indicated that future state funding cuts may be required before the fiscal year ends June 30.

If that happens, the university will have to consider other budget cuts, he said.

Dobbins and the regents said it wouldn't be practical or fair to raise tuition in the middle of the spring semester. But regents said they may have to consider a large tuition hike for the fall semester. Regents said they don't want spending cuts to affect the quality of academic programs at Southeast.

"Low tuition for quality education is a wonderful thing," said Don Dickerson, president of the Board of Regents. But low tuition isn't good if it means the university must offer a lesser education to its students, he said.

"I really think the excellence of our institution is what we have to consider," said regent Sandra Moore.

Dobbins said the university already has cut back on computer upgrades as part of a summertime cut of $2 million in state spending for the school.

Dickerson earlier this week had expressed concern about dipping into the university's reserve fund. But school officials said the university has $3 million in its reserve fund rather than the $2.5 million figure reported by the administration earlier this week.

Southeast plans to use $450,000 of its reserve money to help meet the current cut in state funding. A similar amount could be tapped next spring and still leave $2 million in the reserve fund, officials said.

Staff writer Marc Powers contributed to this story.

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