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Lobbyist Money Help  

Commission looks at Affordability

November 04, 1999
By: Francie Krantz
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - State universities and colleges should consider slowing down new building construction in order to hold down student costs.

That is one of several recommendations adopted by a special state commission reviewing the cost of higher education in Missouri.

The Commission on the Affordability of Higher Education concluded that tuition and fees have grown at a faster rate than both inflation and student financial aid.

Its draft report, adopted Thursday, voiced concern by some commission members that "unchecked, the trends will price many Missourians out of the opportunity for higher education."

The commission was created by the Higher Education Coordinating Board last December. Its report suggests a number of potentially dramatic changes, including forgoing new building construction, privatizing some operations, and collaborating on degree programs.

While not explicity proposing that any degree programs be abandoned, the commission's draft report does suggest institutions examine the "cost effectiveness" of "low enrollment degree programs."

The commission voted to remove a clause from the report that would have recommended that the legislature give budget rewards to instititons that kept student fee and tuition increases below the increase in Missouri family income.

However, the commission retained a recommendation that institutions keep raises below that rate.

The underlying goal of these recommendations is to keep costs at a minimum, while at the same time maintaining high educational quality.

Commissioner of Higher Education Kala Stroup said it's often a difficult task to balance both quality and affordability at collegiate institutions.

"If you increase how much you spend, chances are you increase the profile of your institution," she said. "But keep the eye on affordability while you're setting tuition and fees, and look at the cost benefit and impact on students."

Stroup said the commission's report will be reviewed by members of the higher education community in the coming months. The Coordinating Board will then decide whether or not to adopt any of the recommendations into its general policy.

The final version of the report will be unveiled at Gov. Mel Carnahan's statewide higher education conference Dec. 9 in St. Louis.