Missouri’s state appropriations budget for public higher education dodged a bullet in the first round of legislative cuts, as the Missouri House passed the budget—$200 million lighter—to the Missouri Senate.
According to an article printed in the St. Joseph News-Press last week there are still approximately $300 million in cuts needed to balance the State Budget.
President Robert Vartabedian is keeping a close watch on the legislative session and is very aware what is likely to happen in the upcoming months.
“We talked with a couple of senators from this region late last week and I asked them point blank: How likely is this to stick?” Vartabedian said, “At least one, who is in a considerable position of power, he said it was very unlikely that it would stay at 5.2 percent.”
If the Senate decides to reduce appropriation levels further, Western can seek approval from the Board of Governors to implement a 2.7% tuition increase based on the current Consumer Price Index (CPI), this is allowed for in Missouri Senate bill 389. This would translate to about $500,000 in additional revenue to help offset the current and potential reductions.
The fate of Western’s tuition is directly linked to what the Senate decides to do.
“If the additional cuts are more than $500,000, then we would likely seek a tuition waiver (to the 5% penalty for raising tuition),” Vartabedian said, “If the cuts are $500,000 or less, we might be able to handle that through the CPI request.”
Currently Western is in the wait and see mode, and Vartabedian said that he had preliminarily talked to some of the member s of the board about the possibility of applying for a waiver if needed.
“We just can’t continue to be cut without some extra money coming in,” Vartabedian said.
Mel Klinkner, vice president for financial planning and administration, also said that in the event the cuts go higher, we would immediately seek to implement the 2.7% CPI tuition increase.
Klinkner and Vartabedian both expressed frustration because they said they feel we have a good product and are forced to sell it at a price that is not conducive to maintaining that product.
“Here we are growing for five consecutive years, have all this potential, in the business world we’d be considered a real success,” Klinkner said. “And a successful business could raise the price of its product, expand facilities or do whatever they needed because they were successful and we don’t have that option.”
As much as the thought of tuition going up stings a lot of people, especially the students, look at your professors and know that they’ve had no raise in two years.
Understandably students are concerned, asking themselves questions like: ‘Will I be able to pay for these potential increases?’ because right now it’s unknown what those increases might be.
Mary McIntosh, a junior biology major, works full time while living with her parents—pays for school out-of-pocket.
“It’s really scary, I mean I only have two semesters left but if they do a major increase I might not be able to pay for it or I might end up staying an extra two years,” McIntosh said.
Vartabedian said that morale is surely suffering when staff and faculty who’ve invested so much time and energy to the university see so little reward for that hard work.
McIntosh said she understands the need to give the faculty a raise to reward them for their service, but that it’s hard looking at it from the student viewpoint.
Western’s institutional appropriation is about $22.4 million as was reported in the St. Joseph News-Press, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In a document on Missouri Department of Higher Education’s Website, Western—for fiscal year 2010—was slated for a 10% increase to state appropriations and would be looking at an amount around $24.4 million.
Currently the administration isn’t just standing pat as they wait for the axe to fall; they are trying to be as proactive as they can by pursuing all possible streams of revenue, up to and including the possibility of leasing some of Western’s land.