State tution rises quicker than inflation
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Lobbyist Money Help  

State tution rises quicker than inflation

Date: August 30, 2006
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Four-year public universities in Missouri have the highest average tuition rate among schools in the Big 12, a report released Wednesday by State Auditor Claire McCaskill found.  The audit also claims the state's tuition rates at  four-year public universities have continued to increase above inflation and personal income levels over the past seven years.   

"Not only are we forcing students to pay more for a college education, we're also providing less assistance in the form of need based and other based grants and tuition assistance from the state government," McCaskill said.

McCaskill also said the University of Missouri has the highest tuition among the Big 12.

However, Joe Moore, University of Missouri spokesperson, said the auditor's point of the system's high tuition, "is only valid when taken in the context of the fact that the University of Missouri ranks near the bottom of the Big 12 in state funding support. We have two primary sources of income: state appropriations and tuition."

Moore also said funding for higher education is projected to increase by 2 percent for the coming year.

McCaskill made the same point - holding criticism of the higher education institutions, saying they were reacting to inadequate funding from the state legislature. "I think in this building these programs have been way too frequently the first to be cut and the last to be refunded. The lobbying on behalf of college students is woefully inadequate and they don't give a lot of campaign contributions either," McCaskill said.

The audit also found the state's tuition assistance for grants has decreased over the last four years. McCaskill said there has been a small increase in state resources in the last year, but continued to say it isn't enough to meet inflation rates in the state. 

"If you look at the dramatic decreases you realize that even that small tick up does not even come close to doing what we should be doing as a state in terms of helping students with their college education costs." 

The audit, a follow-up of a 2003 audit, found a 27 percent tuition increase in the state over the last three years. That number is lower than the Big 12 average, but Missouri's tuition average of $5,829  for four year-universities is still higher than the national average and among Big 12 states.

McCaskill identified 2004 as a turning point when a higher percentage of the budgets for state universities and colleges came from tuition than from state appropriations. "For the first time in our state's history students and their families;families and loans are paying for more of college education in this state at public universities and colleges than the state is providing in terms of resources," she said.

McCaskill called upon Missouri's General Assembly to create legislation to allow the Department of Higher Education to provide binding arbitration to publically-funded universities in disagreement over collaborative projects.    

The department is required to conduct comprehensive assessment of public universities every five years, but McCaskill said the department hasn't had had the resources to conduct smaller interim assessments. The reviews are supposed to analyze cost-effectiveness of academic programs to ensure operational efficiency, according to the audit.

McCaskill said because the department didn't have the funds to keep up with the smaller program assessments over the last few years,  it won't be in position to do the 2006 mandated comprehensive assessment. 

Jim Matchefts, assistant commissioner and general counsel to the Department of Higher Education, said the department has been forced to suspend reviews due to budget cuts.