Sunday, October 24, 2021
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Tuition Town Hall Discusses Legislative Pitfalls

The Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM) hosted a Town Hall on tuition. The aim of the town hall was to educate students on where their tuition money goes and to let them voice their opinions about tuition.

Andrew Miller, ASUM’s UMKC Campus President, gave a presentation that broke down where the University of Missouri gets some of its money from, and what a UMKC student’s tuition pays for.

Miller talked about the “long overdue” capital appropriations request for the Spencer Chemistry Building–$60 million.

“It could use so much help,” Miller said. “In my opinion, it’s the ugliest building on campus.”

Miller then showed a chart mapping the decline in funds from the Missouri Legislature over the past five years.

Miller then presented UMKC’s operations fund, showing that nearly 60 percent of funds go to salaries and nearly 20 percent go to benefits.

“[Nearly] Eighty percent of all the money the school spends is on instruction, on professors and their benefits,” Miller said. “That’s a lot.” The remaining money in the figure goes to student services.

Miller then explained what student fees are. Student fees pay for the services that students use, such as the library, laboratories and even ASUM, who receives a maximum amount of $1.80 per student.

Also on the agenda was the $8 million cut in funding from the UM system, proposed by Missouri legislators. Within that figure are the salaries of former University of Missouri assistant professor Melissa Click and her supervisors. During the November protest at MU, Click made national headlines when she joined students and blocked a student journalist from taking a picture of protestors.

“It sure feels like the legislature is punishing the system for all the conflict at MU that happened this past year,” Miller said, speaking of the protests and hunger strike that eventually led to the resignations of former MU Chancellor R Bowen Loftin and Former UM System President Tim Wolfe in November. “It’s sad that the legislature would use the budget as a weapon against students.”

Miller’s statements seem supported by the Republican Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, vice chairman of House Budget Committee, who specifically wants to target the Columbia campus for its “embarrassment.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to wrap the Rolla campus, the St. Louis campus, the Kansas City campus into this problem because really the embarrassment has occurred in Columbia and at the system level,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement.

The conversation then turned to students with Deferred Action for Child Arrival (DACA). These students came to the U.S. as children but are not citizens. Due to recent Missouri legislation, these students no longer qualify for in-state tuition and must pay the larger fee for international students.

“That’s not just an unfortunate thing, that’s a very xenophobic thing for our state to be doing,” said UMKC student Austin Hoffman. “This university is not representative of our city. These fees hit students of color harder than people like [Miller] and I.”

Elie Hudson, representing the Student Organizing Committee, voiced her concerns that rising tuition fees keep universities from being racially, economically, and socially diverse.

“Rising tuition might feed into more of things that are happening at Mizzou and KU,” Hudson said. “We need to tell law makers that we can’t keep raising tuition because not only can people not afford it, but it negatively affects people of color and low-income students.”

Ryan Nash, a UMKC student, was concerned that some new additions to UMKC—electric car stations, a solar-powered trash compactor and the map on Miller Nichols Library, for example—may outprice students who are looking for an affordable education.

“I understand your frustration,” Miller said. “A lot of students do. They say, ‘Hey, I’m struggling to pay my tuition bill every month, but that gym I never go to is being renovated.’”

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