OUR OPINION: State, schools and students in symbiotic relationship

Public colleges and universities share a symbiotic relationship with state government.

Gov. Jay Nixon alluded to that relationship last week when he predicted leaner higher education allocations, but encouraged institutions to forgo tuition hikes and seek greater efficiencies.

Symbiosis is defined both as mutually dependent and as cooperative.

With regard to institutions of higher learning and state government, both definitions apply.

Public colleges and universities are governed by boards and exercise some autonomy. But they also are expected to heed recommendations from the state’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education to avoid duplication and streamline programs.

Revenues also are derived from dual sources.

Boards establish student tuition and fees and apply for education grants. Another source of money is the state’s general revenue budget; the governor crafts and lawmakers hone allocations for the institutions.

Nixon and colleges and universities are nearing the end of a two-year deal in which the governor promised to avoid deep state funding cuts in exchange for a voluntary freeze on tuition.

Although Nixon predicts “substantial cuts” next year, he said he would use his resources as chief executive to “keep downward pressure” on tuition hikes.

Specific numbers remain elusive at this time.

The governor said future cuts likely will exceed the estimated $50 million cuts this year, but he would not be more specific. Similarly, he declined to pinpoint what percentage of a tuition hike he would find reasonable.

The symbiotic relationship between state government and higher education includes a crucial third component — students.

The economic suffering affecting government and colleges and universities also extends to Missouri families.

Nixon is correct to emphasize increased efficiency over increased tuition. For the sake of the students they serve, we urge colleges and universities to heed the governor’s message.

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