Kat Riddler, Managing Editor
Last year, Governor Eric Greitens cut the budget of public colleges by nine percent. His new proposed budget is calling for another reduction for public colleges and universities. If the budget were to pass as is, this state funding would be the lowest since 1998.
The University of Missouri System tightened its belt by eliminating 500 jobs in 2017. In 2016, the University of Missouri-St. Louis found itself $15 million over budget and eliminated 85 positions. With the cuts last year, UMSL had to cut its operating cost by 2.5 percent.
UM System President Mun Choi said, “Seeing the numbers really put it into focus for us, because a reduction in our budget will mean we will have less students for our services and less ability for us to meet our objectives when it comes to student success.”
Chancellor Thomas George sent out a campus-wide email addressing the budget concerns. His email read, “I am happy to report that many of our elected officials in Jefferson City share this view and are working to sustain our funding allocations. UM President Mun Choi has visited Jefferson City numerous times—speaking with individual legislators as well as making presentations to House and Senate finance and education committees. I, too, have been making trips to the state capitol, including a trip two days ago where I spoke one-on-one to senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle—each of whom expressed strong support for higher education and our university.”
Chancellor George listed some of the points being made in Jefferson City for higher education support. He listed in his email that despite no increase in funding the campuses are able to graduate a high number of students with almost a zero increase to tuition, they continue to seek efficiencies in their operations to reinvest in student aid and sustain excellent academic and research programs, and they maintain or minimize cuts to the current core funding.
The last effort mentioned was the repeal or adjust Senate Bill (SB)389. This is a statute that limits tuition increases to the consumer price index.
President Choi announced in a system-wide email on Friday his support of a new Senate Bill that would allow the UM System to charge higher tuition to help offset the budget cut from the state.
SB912, sponsored by Senator Caleb Rowden (R-19), would modify the policy on tuition restrictions that adversely affect public institutions of higher education. Rowden’s legislation would increase the flexibility for universities to collect tuition revenues to provide financial support for services that enhance student success, research and engagement opportunities. Currently, the UM System schools can only increase tuition by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Choi gave testimony at the Senate Appropriations Committee on SB912. He said, “State support and tuition are the two most important sources of revenue for any University. In 2017, Missouri ranked near the bottom at $180/per capita in Higher Ed spending. In comparison, Arkansas spent $335/per capita and Nebraska spent $405/per capita. During the period between 2008 to 2015, Arkansas and Nebraska increased tuition above CPI by 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Missouri increased tuition by only 7 percent, which was the 4th lowest in the United States.”
President Choi also has been making numerous visits with the chancellors from each of the campuses since March 2017. He made key testimonies to the House Special Committee on Urban Issues, the House Joint committee on Education, and the Subcommittee on Appropriations–Education speaking about SB912 and about the UM System budget.
UMSL is in a promising spot with an estimated 35 percent in enrollment for freshmen applications for the Fall 2018 semester.
President Choi said, “Elected officials have responded very favorably to our efforts and have expressed their strong support. I want to thank the elected officials for their strong commitment for the welfare of Missourians and the importance of public higher education and economic development.”