LINN — State Technical College of Missouri’s students will be paying more to go to school this fall — but the exact increase likely won’t be determined until early next month.
The school’s Board of Regents on Friday unanimously approved “setting the 2018-19 tuition and fee rates at the maximum rate allowed by the (state’s) Higher Education Student Funding Act,” effective with the Fall 2018 semester.
Chief Financial Officer Jenny Jacobs explained the law prohibits the school from increasing “our tuition and fees, combined, by more than the CPI (consumer price index) from December to December.”
But, she said, the CPI information “always comes at the end of January” — after the regents’ January meeting.
So the board’s action gave Jacobs and the financial office the authority to set the new tuition and fees based on the cost of living increase that hasn’t been reported yet.
“I’ve been watching the CPI,” she said. “At this point, it looks like a 2.2-ish percent (increase) is what we’ll be able to do.”
That would be about a $5 per credit hour increase, she said.
She told the News Tribune the school should know those numbers by early February.
Increasing tuition will help the school’s revenues, especially with state-supported colleges and universities like State Tech anticipating little or no growth in state funding in the coming year, since lawmakers and Gov. Eric Greitens already have said state revenues are off by as much as $300 million.
Regents President John Klebba said: “There’s a lot of concern. It looks like, for the year that’s closed, we were slightly ahead of budget — and it looks like we’re going to come out several hundred-thousand (dollars) to the good on our budget, because of the increased revenues over what we had projected.
“But still, we’re looking this year at a $900,000 or so deficit, which is very concerning.”
This year’s State Tech budget envisioned dipping into the reserves fund, he noted.
But no one can keep that practice forever.
“Over the years, we’ve been able to set up a pretty nice surplus,” Klebba said. “But we obviously don’t want to continue to have to dig into that.”
State Tech needs to continue growing its student body and the tuition they pay.
He said current numbers indicate the school may end the 2017-18 year with a 10 percent increase in enrollment.
President Shawn Strong said last year State Tech needs a 20 percent enrollment increase.
“We knew when we implemented it that it would be a stretch,” he said.
“It was a goal made of necessity, maybe not as much as reality.”
But, he added, a 20 percent student increase remains the goal, because “our approach to our budget woes is not to say we have to have more money — but take ownership of it and say we’ve got to grow.”
That 20 percent increase would help give faculty and staff raises and provide money to help “us start to replenish some of the reserves that we have drained to about the level where we’re comfortable with.”
Administrators know that costs will continue to climb, Strong said.
Klebba said administrators also must “look really, really hard at some of the expenses that we have. We have always run a pretty lean institution.
“So, when you’re running lean, every time you make a cut it hurts — because it’s not fat anymore. It’s muscle.”
Whatever cuts must be made, Klebba said, “We don’t want to cut where the quality of the programs are compromised.
“We have good quality programs, and that’s why we get good students and why we have employers who come in and hire those people.”
Strong said State Tech is in a good position to grow.
One example he gave the regents was the electrical distribution program, which is doubling the size of its classes because of student demand for them.
“The numbers are tracking in the right direction,” he said. “We had the largest freshman class (in school history) last fall.
“If we can continue that, we’re going to be where we need to be.”
The school received a clean audit from the Jefferson City-based Evers and Company CPAs accounting firm.
“There were no suggestions of changes or recommendations,” Klebba said.
“I’m always happy with a clean audit, and I think we’ve always had a clean audit during the 20-plus years I’ve been on the board.”