MU Looks at New Tuition Plan
One model the task force has its eye on comes from Ohio's Miami University, and it makes the public school look private by setting the tuition for every student at the out-of-state price. The model has been successful for several years, but it might not work for Missouri's largest public university.
"It was a risky venture for us because we didn't know how it was going to be received by the public at large," said Miami University President, Dr. James Garland.
Instead of putting state money into the school, Miami gives it to in-state students in the form of automatic resident scholarships. In-state students can also receive the Ohio leader scholarship, which varies in amount depending on merit and financial need. The final cost for in-state students is ends up close to what they used to pay before the new tuition model.
"We realized we were not fulfilling our public responsibility of providing quality educational opportunities across the whole socio-economic spectrum of the state," said Dr. Garland, who developed and promoted the plan designed to cater to low and moderate-income families.
Ideally a third of students would pay more than the current tuition, a third would pay the exact same and a third - the low and moderately low income students - would pay less.
"Treating everybody the same is not treating everybody fairly," said Garland,"and public universities, in my opinion, have a responsibility for fairness."
Critics say the number of students walking on this campus have gone down since the school started using this tuition plan, but Miami's president said that's not true.
He said the number of students on campus has dropped, but the number of applications has skyrocketed. And most students who left the school weren't even part of the new plan.
"We were concerned that the sticker shock would scare off our Ohio applicants," said Garland, "and we were greatly relieved to find out actually that somehow it made us more desirable."
But would a plan like Miami's work in Missouri? Garland said it's a plan most schools would not be able to adopt. It is based on the idea that "We have a market rate of tuition which is set by a large number of out of state students," said Garland.
Out of state students account for 28% of enrollment at Miami. At MU, that number is about 18 percent. So, in Dr. Garland's opinion, another model would work better for MU. But Miami's model is not off the table yet.
"We have not dismissed any model," said Task Force Member Dean Mills. "I mean the tuition task force is an ongoing operation and we're still meeting and discussing various possibilities." Possibilities that would include reflecting the true cost of tuition at MU on student bills, to show the amount of money the state pays for a student's education.
Dr. Garland says the fundamental idea of students paying different amounts based on income is successful at the university level, but state governments need a new approach.
"Until some new kind of funding model is going to provide an ample source of revenue," he said, "the situation isn't going to get better."
Garland says shrinking state support puts Miami on the road to become a private school, and other state universities could be headed the same way. Dr. Garland says the plan has proven its success and hopes it will continue to evolve after he retires at the end of this semester.