Most businesses wouldn’t consider a 7 percent cut from their budget a victory, but Missouri Western isn’t most businesses.
In reaction to the cut from state funds, Western will be raising tuition somewhere in the 10 percent range. The Columbia Tribune reported that the schools in the University of Missouri system will be raising their tuition an average of 5.8 percent.
President Robert Vartabedian believes that Western is different from other universities because Western is a growing campus.
“Our circumstances are a little different than other universities,” Vartabedian said. “While I’m thankful that the cut’s not more than [7 percent] still, it will hurt if we cannot offset it.”
Vartabedian said that everyone at Western has suffered from cuts but believes that a raise in tuition will help Western grow even more.
“We’ve made the best of the belt tightening,” Vartabedian said. “But I think we’re at the point where we’re very, very lean and that we really need to move forward with getting more resources for the University.”
Deputy Commissioner for the Missouri Department of Higher Education, Paul Wagner, met with Western administration last month to gather information about the university’s financial situation. Wagner said that when looking at schools and their situations, he doesn’t try to compare.
“Clearly Western has some of the same challenges that other schools do,” Wagner said. “State funding has been reduced, while enrollment has gone up, and of course fixed costs always increase. It doesn’t matter to me what any other school does. I’m simply looking at that school and their circumstances.”
The 7 percent cut to is part of Gov. Nixon’s proposed budget. The governor needed to cut nearly $500 million to balance it. This budget isn’t finalized and must be approved by the Missouri Congress. In the last few years, Congress has approved Nixon’s budget, leaving cuts untouched.
Once the state budget is finalized, Western will be proposing the tuition increase to the University’s Board of Governors. Once approved by the board, Western can begin requesting a waiver from Senate bill 389. Senate bill 389 freezes tuition at 4-year state institutions in Missouri. If the wavier is not granted, Western could be penalized with another 5 percent cut from the state if they raise tuition above the U.S. Consumer Price Index.
In an article in the Springfield News-Leader, sponsor of SB 389 Gary Noddler said that the bill was never meant prevent schools from raising tuition when necessary.
Vice President for Financial Planning and Administration, Mel Klinkner also believes that SB 389 was not intended for the current economic climate coupled with increasing mandatory costs.
“If we grow from 4,000 students to 6,000, and we still have the same staffing levels, how do you cut?” Klinker said. “We’re just at a point where I don’t know where else we can cut from the budget. I mean, everybody has to cut back as much as we can. We cut back our budgets and not added staff. It’s pretty tough.”
On Feb. 2, Vartabedian will be testifying in front of the State Appropriations Committee. The committee has asked Vartabedian to address some specific areas concerning Western and its budget.