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Morning headlines: Monday, February 20, 2012

The Columns at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
(via Flickr/Adam Procter)
The University of Missouri System's flagship campus in Columbia, Mo.

University of Missouri Curators to consider raising tuition today

The special meeting comes after the governing board postponed consideration of a tuition increase three weeks ago at its regular meeting in Kansas City. This time, the curators will meet by video teleconference along with new university president Tim Wolfe.  

The proposed increases range from 3 percent at the Kansas City campus to 9 percent at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. Students at the Columbia campus face a 7.5 percent increase and an 8.2 percent increase at the St. Louis campus.

That proposal came before Gov. Jay Nixon agreed to use $40 million from a nationwide settlement with mortgage lenders for higher education. The boost would reduce the proposed cut in higher education funding from 12.5 percent to slightly less than 8 percent.

Ill. ranks dead last among states when it comes to funding public pensions

As lawmakers look to trim costs, the Director of the Center for Business and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has some advice. Jeffrey Brown says it's important to look for savings, while at the same time maintaining a retirement package that's competitive.

"You cannot view pension reform as solely an exercise in cost-cutting," said Brown. " We really do need to think about the impact that this has on the ability of higher education to continue to be an economic engine for the state, and to continue to attract and retain the kind of talent that we have and that we need."

Brown recently co-authored a study he says suggests ways that reach a happy medium. It focuses on the State Universities Retirement System, though he says most proposals could be applied to Illinois' other pension funds.

Some of the ideas include offering a hybrid pension that's half traditional, half like a 4-0-1-K. He also says there's room to reduce how interest on pension payouts is calculated, a proposal he says would do away with constitutional concerns about reducing current employees' future benefits.

Brown recommends university employees be required to put more of their salaries into their pensions, and that the schools themselves contribute.

Joplin officials to hear about proposed changes to city's storm-siren policy

The Joplin Globe reports that the possible policy changes are in response to a National Weather Service investigation following the May 22nd tornado that killed 161 people. Officials have been studying why some people didn't take cover when a tornado warning was issued and the sirens set off before the EF-5 tornado hit.

City policy has been to sound the sirens when a tornado or severe storm is headed for the city. They're set off in one, three-minute blast that the report said made it difficult to discern the magnitude of the threat. The report also said that after confirming the threat, many did take shelter.