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Universities oppose fee restrictions.

January 30, 2002
By: Kathryn Handley
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - State universities would be banned from increasing student fees during the school year under a House bill presented on Wednesday.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Philip Smith, D-Louisiana, was the proposal's lone supporter at the committee hearing.

Smith said mid-year increases are unfair to families.

"The families have a much harder time absorbing these costs than universities," he said.

Smith said his proposal is in response to complaints from his constituents about mid-year fee increases that some universities had last year. He said his bill is not in response to Gov. Bob Holden's proposed $72 million higher-education cut.

Southwest Missouri State University President John Keiser told the committee he was speaking in opposition to the bill on behalf of all 14 of Missouri's public 4-year colleges and universities.

SMSU had a mid-year fee increase last year. Keiser said that faced with the alternatives, the student government supported the increase.

"We see no way to operate without that option," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Columbia campus of the University of Missouri said the campus never has had a mid-year fee increase.

However, UM lobbyist Jim Snider testfied against the bill. Snider said that the UM system only has two sources of revenue: state funds and student fees.

"There's not a lot of room for flexibility," he said.

Rep. Ted Farnen, D-Mexico, said he was also concerned about flexibility.

Farnen said that since the state would be decreasing university funding under Holden's budget proposal, restricting their fee-increases would be like "hitting them from both sides."

Snider said he opposes the bill's second sentence, which states that universities may not, at any tine, enact fees that exceed the inflation rate.

"We may have to increase fees above inflation," he said. "And I want the university to have that ability."

Despite state-funding cuts, Snider said the UM system will not have mid-year fee increases this year.

MU news bureau director Mary Jo Banken said the Columbia branch wouldn't either.

"We weren't planning on doing that anyway," she said.

Banken said that if tuition were to be increased, the earliest this change would take affect would be summer 2002. The fee increases would first have to be approved by the Board of Curators in March, she said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.