Tuition increase plan approved at SEMO

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Southeast Missouri State University's Board of Regents voted Friday to increase tuition by as much as $8 a credit hour for the spring and summer semesters if Gov. Bob Holden cuts state higher education funding later this month.

But the regents capped the credit-hour surcharge at $8. University president Dr. Ken Dobbins will have to come back to the regents for approval should a larger increase be needed to balance the school's budget.

Dobbins said Southeast could face 5 percent to 10 percent cuts in state funding, amounting to $2 million to $4.1 million. But regents and school officials worried it could be even more.

The regents backed the budget-balancing plan on a 4-1 vote. Board president Don Dickerson of Cape Girardeau and fellow regents Doyle Privett of Kennett, Mo., John Tlapek of Cape Girardeau and Sandra Moore of St. Louis voted for the plan. Moore participated in the meeting by telephone.

Regent Brad Bedell of Sikeston, Mo., joined the meeting by telephone later in the day after the vote had been taken.

Regent Kim Mothershead of Benton, Mo., voted against the plan, saying she didn't want students to have to pay more. Mothershead has voted against fee increases in the past.

This marked the third time this year that the regents have approved fee increase proposals.

Even a cap on the fee increase didn't make the proposal more attractive, Mothershead said during a break in the meeting. "I didn't like the whole thing."

But Privett said he felt better about capping the increase rather than granting open-ended approval to the university administration to raise tuition.

How the plan works

Under the plan, the university would first use $1 million -- raised largely from a surcharge of $6 per credit hour imposed earlier this year -- and $750,000 in added revenue from increased enrollment to make up any funding shortfall.

If funding cuts total more than $1.75 million, the university will make up the remaining shortfall from a tuition surcharge, the school's rainy day fund and more spending cuts. Those three areas would each account for a third of the needed dollars, school officials said.

If Holden withholds $4.1 million in state funding for Southeast, university students will see a tuition increase of $8 a credit hour. In-state undergraduates would pay $148.50 a credit hour in tuition and general fees. Out-of-state undergraduates would pay $252 a credit hour.

In-state graduate students would pay more than $172 a credit hour. Out-of-state graduate students would pay $297 a credit hour.

School officials said an $8-a-credit-hour surcharge would raise $800,000. Another $800,000 would come from the replenished rainy day fund -- which was boosted by an earlier tuition increase and spending cuts including cuts in equipment purchases -- and $800,000 would be cut from current operating expenses. Those cuts would include delaying equipment purchases and computer upgrades, deferring maintenance projects and possibly implementing further hiring freezes, officials said.

Regents said they didn't want to use up all of the $2.25 million that the school has put back into the rainy day fund. "I think it's prudent to have a rainy day fund," Tlapek said.

Dickerson said the state can't continue to reduce funding for Missouri's public colleges.

"I think somebody else's hide is going to have to take a lick," he said.

In other action, the regents moved ahead with plans for the university's River Campus arts school, approving a conceptual design for the $36.5 million project. The plan includes a visitors center, an art and regional history museum that would be located west of the historic seminary building. The museum and a 1,000-seat theater would share lobby space.

The regents approved a funding plan that could involve the issuance of $30 million in bonds through the Missouri Development Finance Board, a state-created bonding entity.

The regents approved revised contracts with Jacobs Facilities Inc. of St. Louis to draw up final plans for the project and BSI Inc. of St. Louis for construction management services.

In other business, the regents granted an extension to the St. Louis Charter Academy that would delay opening the new elementary school from July 2003 to July 2004. The regents ordered the charter school's directors to show by May that they are making progress toward establishing the school.

The university, under state law, can grant charters for the opening of public elementary and secondary schools in the city of St. Louis that have their own board of directors and don't answer to the city's school board. The university has a committee that evaluates proposed schools and routinely reviews their operations. Such schools operate with state tax dollars and any private donations they may raise.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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