JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's legislature never intended for higher education to be free--at least, that's what the House higher education committee decided Monday.
The committee voted to reverse a 130-year old law prohibiting the University of Missouri from charging tuition. To avoid that legal ban on tuition, the university has charged students under the guise of "required educational fees."
Sen. Sidney Johnson, D-Agency, is sponsoring the bill that removes the tuition ban for the UM system. The bill has already received Senate approval.
UM lobbyist Jim Snyder said the definition of the term "tuition" has changed since 1871. He said the term used to refer to funds designated specifically for hiring faculty, even though a more modern definition of tuition includes educational fees.
Snyder asked the committee to speed up the bill's approval because of a lawsuit pending in a St. Louis County Circuit Court. In the suit, the plaintiffs asked for refunds from the university, using a strict interpretation of the term "tuition," according to Snyder.
He said the bill clarifies the term, which would help the state in the lawsuit.
"This would be evidence to the court that the state of Missouri never intended that it would be free to attend the University of Missouri," Snyder said.
The bill received unanimous committee approval Monday from lawmakers who said the legislation will not result in any new fees for UM students. The bill was moved to the House calendar for a final vote.
A similar bill passed both the House and Senate last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Carnahan because of a provision allocating funding for spinal cord research, said Barb Shimmens, of Sen. Johnson's office.