Members of the University of Missouri Board of Curators winced at the numbers they heard.
A full 9 percent increase in tuition needed for the science and engineering campus at Rolla, three times the rate of inflation.
But it was the even higher percentage that was not discussed Thursday — although everyone present was only too aware of it — that caused most of the pain: the proposed 12.5 percent cut in state funds for the 2012-13 school year.
Both numbers might shrink before the budgeting process is done, but neither will go away.
Students and their parents will have to shoulder a larger part of university revenue through tuition checks.
At the University of Missouri-Kansas City — which has asked for the smallest increase, 3 percent — tuition would go from $7,737 to $7,968 for an in-state undergraduate student. Add the required fees, also higher, and the price tag to attend is $8,926 a year.
In 1977, Jefferson City provided nearly 47 percent of the university system’s operation revenue. This year, 15 percent.
Consider UMKC, where state appropriations per student have fallen from $9,004 in 2010 to a projected $5,742 in 2013, when Gov. Jay Nixon’s office would snip an additional $50 million from the university system.
“These tuition increases are in every way related to the reduction of state funding,” Curator Warren Erdman of Kansas City said.
No decisions were made Thursday at the new Student Union, where the board spent hours listening to the administrators: Columbia needed 7.5 percent more in tuition; the St. Louis campus, 8.2 percent.
“The justification is that it is just what it takes to keep the university going,” said Columbia Chancellor Brady Deaton. “These increases are all coming with great sacrifice.”
Those sacrifices will continue, as the board suggested that the schools begin looking for non-academic programs to eliminate.
UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton said his school opted to hold the increase down to 3 percent and instead shoot for recruiting more students. He said if the university raised tuition too high, the student UMKC is going after to boost its enrollment probably will go elsewhere.
Tuition at UMKC is already higher than at nearby public four-year schools, including the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.
In Kansas, state appropriations account for 22 percent of KU’s budget this year, about half of what it was 30 years ago. Tuition and fees now account for 21 percent, up from 8.3 percent in 1981.
If Missouri legislators approve Nixon’s proposal, the universities will have seen about 25 percent of their state aid evaporate in three years.
Deaton said his campus already had cut spending by $8 million by reducing staff and administrative costs.
“But you just can’t keep chopping,” he said. “We have to ensure quality. It is what our students and our parents demand.”
In her presentation, Nikki Krawitz, university system vice president for finance, noted:
• Administrative costs have been cut the last four years, and they are lower than at other public doctoral institutions.
• Most students don’t pay the sticker price on tuition. Because of financial aid, 80 percent of students pay about half.
• The average tuition increase over the last five years has been 2.7 percent.
“We have done a great job of trying to keep tuitions low for our students,” Krawitz said.
That low average, however, stems in part from past deals that curators made with the governor not to raise tuition.
“I voted for it, but I’m beginning to wonder about those two years we agreed not to raise tuition,” Erdman said, referring to the 2008 agreement.
He called the tuition proposals he heard Thursday “hard to digest.”
“I’m not looking forward to voting on a tuition schedule such as this,” he said.
Missouri law now caps tuition hikes at the rate of inflation, unless the state commissioner of higher education grants a waiver, which was done last year. Under the proposals heard Thursday, all campuses but UMKC will need one again.
Although tuition’s share of the revenue pie has only risen by 4 percent over the last 25 years, other sources, such as grants, service sales and endowments, have grown.
Patient revenues from the system’s medical schools, for example, made up just 7 percent of income in 1977. Today, it’s 25 percent and represents $664.7 million of the system’s $2.6 billion operating budget. Much of that revenue though goes back into the medical schools to pay doctor salaries, Deaton said.
The majority of tuition revenue goes to instruction, scholarships and student services. Salaries for faculty and staff eat up the largest chunk of the budget.
Although most tuition dollars help pay those salaries, they alone cannot cover the payroll. Consider UMKC, where tuition and fees in 2011 brought in $141.1 million. At the same time, salaries and wages for 4,018 members of the school’s faculty and staff were $179.2 million.