Nixon freezes tuition for upcoming school year

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Officials at Missouri Western say they are set to make additional budget adjustments as needed following an agreement between Missouri’s four-year colleges and universities and Gov. Jay Nixon to freeze tuition costs for students during the 2010 to 2011 school year.

This will be the second year in a row that tuition has been frozen at Western and other colleges in the state. The latest tuition freeze was agreed to by colleges in exchange for the state cutting higher education funding by no more than approximately 5 percent for the next school year.

As reported earlier, Western officials have already anticipated budget shortfalls and have decided on a number of measures that include suspending sabbaticals and by suspending awards for faculty, staff and administrators to help make up for around $2 million less in the budget for the coming school year.

Missouri Western President Robert Vartabedian said that he and other campus officials are now beginning to make decisions on some additional ways to save money. “Another thing we’re looking at right now is summer school compensation. We’re looking at a different way of funding summer school for our faculty,” Vartabedian said.

Vartabedian says that summer school compensation, normally figured at a percentage of a faculty member’s base salary, could be changed to a flat amount in the future to cut costs. That option is something that Vartabedian said campus officials would make a decision on shortly.

A hiring freeze is another step that may be taken in the future. “We’ll be looking at positions that are definitely needed versus those positions which we can hold off on until after we’ve rode out this financial crisis,” Vartabedian said. “And if you put enough of those sorts of things together, at least you’re making a dent on those $2 million in cuts.”

Western’s Vice President for financial planning and administration MelKlinkner says the campus is also looking at reducing payroll expenditures by having volunteers teach some classes instead of adjunct staff. “How that would work is we may have some classes taught by an administrator such as myself that has expertise in the subject,” Klinkner said.

Klinkner also named the downtown campus as another area they would look at. “We would continue to try to do everything we’re doing downtown, it just may be at a different location. Like in the past, our law enforcement academy was located on-campus, so moving locations may be an option, but we have made no decisions on downtown yet,” Klinkner said.

The first tuition freeze did not allow colleges to raise tuition more than the cost of living in return for no cuts in state funding. This time, Nixon says the agreement goes further. “Next year, for the second year in a row, Missouri students at our public four-year colleges and universities won’t see an increase in their tuition or academic fees—not one penny, period,” Nixon said.

The governor’s latest freeze agreement will mean no tuition increases from Missouri colleges and universities. In exchange, the state will cut funding no more than 5.2 percent. During the freeze, however, schools are allowed to increase tuition and book costs for out-of-state students.

Nixon will be the guest speaker at Western’s winter commencement Saturday, Dec. 12 at 4 p.m. in the M.O. Looney Complex Arena.
Prior to becoming governor, Nixon was elected to a record four terms as Missouri’s Attorney General, beginning in 1992. He also served six years in the Missouri Senate, beginning in 1986.

Nixon is a native of De Soto, Mo. He and his wife Georganne Wheeler Nixon have two sons, Jeremiah and Wilson.

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