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Sticking it to the students

State funding cuts to Missouri colleges prompt tuition increases

Missouri’s third consecutive year of cuts to college funding could mean a $9.4 million cut in UMKC’s 2013 budget, which takes effect July 1.

Although the State Legislature will ultimately determine the budget, Governor Jay Nixon proposed the 12.5 percent cuts in his State of the State address, defending them as necessary to address a projected $500 million budget shortfall.

State appropriations account for 24 percent of UMKC’s unrestricted revenue stream (which excludes earmarks, grants and most gifts) for FY 2012.

State funding has declined steadily in recent years. In 1999, state funding exceeded net student tuition and fees (tuition and fees, less scholarships) by a 3:2 ratio. Next fall, students can anticipate paying twice what the state does.

The $64.5 million appropriation from the state is the lowest in more than a decade, and is $9.4 million less than what UMKC received this fiscal year and $20 million less than FY 2010.

However, UMKC’s 3 percent tuition increase for fall 2012 would be the lowest of any University of Missouri school.

Tuition will increase 7.5 percent at the Columbia campus, and 9 percent and 8.2 percent for the Missouri Science and Technology (S&T) and St. Louis campuses respectively.

Karen Wilkerson, Director of Budget Planning, said the 3 percent increase is modest and in keeping with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 3 percent, which measures inflation.

Wilkerson said the reason UMKC did not opt for a larger tuition increase is because it lacks the other UM schools’ ability to raise tuition without impacting enrollment.

The Columbia campus is popular due to such factors as its location, size and popular sports teams. S&T has a waiting list of students, and UMSL’s main competitors are costlier private universities.

UMKC’s position along a state line puts it in a much more competitive market, Wilkerson explained, citing competition from the University of Central Missouri, KU, K-State and area community colleges.

“Our goal is to increase enrollment, because the more revenue we get, the less reliant we are on the state,” she said. “If we can grow enrollment and retain more students, we believe we can close a portion of that gap.”

The increase in tuition will generate an expected $3.2 million. Enrollment increases will generate an expected $1.5-2 million in revenue, which Wilkerson said is based on conservative estimates.

“The cuts affect everybody,” she said, “but we’re trying to hold it so it doesn’t affect the students and it aligns with our strategic mission.” The strategic mission includes an increase in undergraduate enrollment and retention.

Payroll, UMKC’s largest expenditure, will bear the brunt of the cuts, which will come in the form of a hiring freeze and cutbacks in filling vacant positions.

This is expected to save $3.2 million.

“If people leave, we really want to see if we can fill that gap with people who are currently here by rearranging duties to save money by holding those positions vacant either permanently or for a short time,” Wilkerson said.

Although the FY 2013 budget is still in the planning process, cuts will be made across the board.

Under UMKC’s budget model, state appropriations are made to academic units based on the number of student credit hours in each school.

The individual schools then pay a support tax to the central administration based on measurable standards like building size and employee payroll.

“It’s a large cut,” Wilkerson said. “It can’t be absorbed entirely by anyone.”

The budget woes have been less contentious at UMKC than other schools.

Last year, Governor Nixon withheld additional state funds from the UM system for raising tuition beyond the rate of inflation.

Last year, more than 40 states cut funding to higher education, prompting President Barack Obama to threaten to cut off federal student aid to schools that “jack up tuition” in his State of the Union address.

Although such action would require Congressional approval, the president’s speech has generated buzz about ballooning tuition costs.

“I believe the stat that I saw was for public universities whose tuition increased by at least 5.6 percent each year,” Wilkerson said. “I don’t know how that would be implemented as a system or as an individual campus.”

UMKC has been less aggressive about tuition increases than other schools.

“It’s a good reminder to everyone that it’s good to keep the costs down and make it possible for people to go to school,” Wilkerson said of the President’s address. “We’re hoping everything we do will be seamless for students.”

nzoschke@unews.com

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