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Curators approve 3 percent tuition hike for UM system

A view of the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Courtesy of the University of Missouri-St. Louis
A view of the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Updated at 1:00 p.m. following conference call and media availability.

Updated at 1:07 to correct who would have to provide the tuition waiver.

Missouri residents attending the four campuses of the University of Missouri system will see their tuition increase by three percent - about $230 - next year.

The system's Board of Curators voted 7-0 during a teleconference meeting this morning to approve that increase, as well as increases in a variety of fees that students pay for specialized programs.

"Just looking at MU and how it compares to a number of different peer groups including the AAU (Association of American Universities), the SEC, (Southestern Conference, which Mizzou has joined), the Big Ten, the Big 12, you can see that MU continues to be a great value, with tuition and required fees for resident undergraduates well below the average for any one of the groups," said Nikki Krawitz, the system's vice president of finance and administration.

Today's increase, which will not require a waiver from the Commissioner of Higher Education,  is well below a proposal unveiled three weeks ago, where tuition would have gone up an average of 6.5 percent. It was made possible by a promise from Gov. Jay Nixon that $40 million from a national settlement with mortgage lenders will go to higher education, with $18 million going to the UM system.

But that money has to be appropriated by the General Assembly, and that step has curator Warren Erdman of Kansas City worried.

"In the event that that didn't happen, I guess we would have to take a second look at this," he said. "I don't even want to ponder that at this moment, but as we vote on this, that money isn't certain."

Krawitz says system officials would try to avoid additional tuition hikes  if the settlement funds aren't appropriated.

Even with the promised $18 million and a three percent increase, the university will have to close a $47 million gap.

"We need help," UM president Tim Wolfe said. "We need more resources. The gap that we're going to find today, without incremental help, unfortunately will result in loss of jobs, loss of particular programs that we're in right now, and we'd like to eliminate that if at all possible."

In December, University of Missouri-Columbia chancellor Brady Deaton said ongoing state funding cuts played a role in the school's decision to leave the Big 12 for the SEC. Wolfe, the president, says that was not part of the budget discussion.

"We hope that we will see incremental revenue opportunities by joining the SEC, but that was not part of this conversation, where we were trying to solve for a one-year budget challenge," he said.

The curators must approve a budget in June. Krawitz says as many as 245 full-time positions could be eliminated, including some that are currently filled. She would not provide a breakdown of what campuses will be affected, or the percentage of layoffs to attrition.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.