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Student Curator discusses UM System student issues

Recap of Jan. 31 – Feb. 1 Board of Curators meetings:

The University of Missouri System Board of Curators met at UMKC on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. The Board agreed on a 1.7 percent tuition increase for all UM students.

UM President Tim Wolfe delivered his State of the University address. He highlighted the research advances the University has made and its commitment to keep tuition low and “within reach for any student who desires” a UM education.

UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton discussed efforts to increase fundraising and scholarship opportunities. “Our goal is to be at 20,000 [students] by 2020,” Morton said.

Q: Name and position

A: Amy G. Johnson, Student Representative to the Board of Curators, a.k.a. “Student Curator.”

Q: Which issues discussed by the Board of Curators do you believe will have the greatest impact on UM System students, and UMKC students specifically?

A:  As for UM System students as a whole, we declared our “theme” for this year to be the development and maturation of research opportunities. We recently pooled funds to facilitate interdisciplinary, intercampus research initiatives and a student entrepreneurship fund is also in the works.

For UMKC specifically, we approved the $29.3 million Hospital Hill housing project which will be completed by July of 2014 and provide apartment-style living within walking distance of that campus. We also approved a new Master’s degree in Health Professions Education (MHPE) to go before the Board of Higher Education. This represents collaboration between the School of Education and School of Medicine and is a move I applaud as it takes advantage of current infrastructure while considering the progressive nature of the healthcare field along with those already in it seeking further education.

Q:Did you agree with the decisions that were made?

A: By paying careful attention during the reports made to the Board, and asking critical questions, I come to understand why each decision is made and acknowledge its potential effects on students. When a proposal or report begins to lose sight of the goal to provide students with quality, accessible education, I jump in to highlight the issue immediately. No one on the Board wants to make a decision that will negatively impact the mission of our universities, and I serve as a constant reminder of this with my unique student perspective.

Q:Please comment from your Student Curator perspective on the 1.7 percent tuition increase:

A: Initially we proposed a 2 percent increase in tuition and fees. However, inflation was less than projected, 1.7 percent, so this was our percentage increase to maintain homeostasis.

Q: Do you think students should be content with the 1.7 percent tuition increase?

A: When students do not understand where their money is going, they tend to be quite unsettled by increases in the cost of higher education. However, when they realize that we raise tuition according to inflation and try to limit the effects of state appropriation cuts on students while preserving the programs being offered, these decisions are understood to be reasonable.

Q: As the official voice representing all students in the University of Missouri system, what student perspectives and opinions did you relay to the Board of Curators during last week’s meetings?

A: Most of my commentary during the meetings comes as I aim to be a watchful eye for the students rather than having a separate student agenda to accomplish. I ensure each construction project, for example, considers LEED certification and other environmentally friendly practices as many students express to me a concern for sustainability among our campuses. eLearning continues to be a hot topic during student discussions and I pushed for greater online course offerings from each campus and asked that each consider how to approach offering credit for online courses completed outside the system, sharing resources and making online courses available to students from different campuses within the system, etc. A third area I always inquire heavily about is where funds will go if we are allotted state appropriations increases or realize miscellaneous cost savings. Deferred maintenance and merit-based funding for faculty may not be directly tied to student success, but these are two of the most important places I promote for the allotment of extra funds. They profoundly affect the quality of the student experience in many ways and are often the first to be set aside when budgets are cut.

lgepford@unews.com

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