JEFFERSON CITY — University of Missouri System President Mun Choi said he will do a careful analysis before suggesting a tuition increase for students during a Missouri House of Representatives education appropriations subcommittee hearing Tuesday.
“There is a misconception that lower tuition increases student performance,” Choi said.
He said increasing tuition would raise faculty salaries and make more financial aid available for students. Choi added that more classes would be available so students could graduate sooner.
“There is work that we need to do to generate new revenue, and whether that comes from e-learning, corporate partnerships, we’re going to be exploring it,” Choi said. “But additional ability for us to raise revenues where we can, and (to do so fairly) through tuition, is something that we are seeking.”
Choi listed accomplishments by the system during the previous year while requesting $438 million, which he said is on par with the current year’s funding. That includes $10 million for the NextGen Precision Health Institute. Choi asked for the NextGen funding to be made part of the university’s core funding instead of being treated as an addition to the budget.
After his testimony, Choi said he is optimistic about receiving the requested funds.
“The legislature, the governor’s office, are very supportive of our mission as a public research university, so I feel pretty confident,” he said. “As you can see, there is a lot of support they have for our university, and we’re going to count on it.”
Choi spoke to the House committee as it began the process of drafting the state’s next budget. In addition to funding for higher education institutions, it is examining other programs.
Leroy Wade, deputy commissioner of the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, said he is “pretty confident” the A+ Scholarship Program will be fully funded for 2021.
Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, raised concerns over the number of Black students who receive aid from the A+ Scholarship Program.
Wade confirmed only 2% of recipients of scholarships self-report as African-American.
Commissioner of Higher Education Zora Mulligan said there is a departmentwide focus on equity. One of the focuses is on disaggregated data to identify who is being helped by programs.
After the hearing, Windham suggested either creating an income threshold or making the A+ Scholarship Program a first-dollar scholarship, as opposed to filling in the gaps left by other funding.
“Right now, I think it’s sometimes a promise unfulfilled, but hopefully we’ll correct that soon enough,” Windham said.
The Bright Flight Program provides financial aid to Missouri residents who attend postsecondary school in Missouri. The scholarship amount was cut from $3,000 to $1,800 during summer budget cuts to higher education. In the fall, qualifying students received $900. Wade said the current goal is to raise the spring semester Bright Flight Scholarship amount to $1,500.