Missouri State University has announced five affordability initiatives to save students money. Two have already been approved by the MSU Board of Governors. One reduces the number of credit hours needed to graduate from 125 to 120.
"This has the potential to save in-state, undergraduate students more than $1,000 over the course of their studies. Along with strong advising, this action will help students graduate on time in four years or less," said MSU President Clif Smart.
The Missouri Board of Governors has renegotiated the university’s contract with its food service provider, Chartwells. The new contract reduces the allowable increase in student meal charges each year from four percent to the rate of inflation. For the 2018-2019 school year, the increase will be 2.1 percent.
Housing rates at three MSU dorms, Hutchens, Hammons and Scholars House, have been frozen for the 2018-2019 school year. The rate freeze will affect more than 1300 students living in those halls.
Incoming freshmen and returning students will see lower costs for some textbooks for larger sections of lower-division courses. The MSU bookstore is partnering with faculty teaching larger sections "to offer StreamlinEd versions of texts at much lower costs," according to university officials.
The university plans to expand several of its scholarship programs, including the Missouri State Promise Scholarship that benefits low-income students who don't qualify for other academic scholarships or aid. Starting this fall, MSU will increase the first-year value of that scholarship by $500 and expand selection criteria to nearly double the number of entering freshmen who are offered the award. MSU will also expand the criteria for the Provost and Deans scholarships so more students qualify.
MSU junior business major, Derric Durham, said he believes the changes will have a positive outcome for him, especially the drop in the required number of hours needed to graduate.
"That will increase my chances of graduating really sooner with being in the College of Business," he said, "and it also just other tactics for how to save money is really going to affect me in a positive manner."
Smart said this effort toward efficiency and affordability isn't new.
"Every year we work to figure out how we're able to deliver our classes for less money," he said. "And, you know, it factors in on class size, it factors in on who our teachers are--more adjunct, more are instructors rather than tenure track--you pay a price for that."
MO State has experienced three reductions in state funding recently: A withholding of $6.7 million in 2017 and a budget reduction of $6.5 million in FY2018 as well as a $2.7 million withholding. And Smart said they anticipate further reductions in the FY2019 budget, which is expected to be released next week.
In FY18, MSU will have received $4 million less in state funding than it received 17 years ago.
But Smart pointed out the university tries hard to make higher education affordable for its students. It's currently the second largest public university in Missouri and has seen record enrollment the last six years. At the start of the fall 2017 semester, 26,000 students were enrolled system-wide.
And it's the fifth least expensive public university in Missouri with tuition and fees costing $7,306 this year. Only Southeast Missouri State University, Missouri Western State University, Harris-Stowe State University and Missouri Southern State University are cheaper.
Appropriations per student at MSU are the lowest in the state at $4,227 per student compared with the highest, Lincoln, with $8,762 per student.
Smart said there almost certainly will need to be a tuition and fee increase for the next school year. But the five affordability initiatives should soften that for some students.
"Missouri State will continue to work with our state leaders and stakeholders to make education affordable, increase the number of graduates, expand critical academic programs. lead in the economic development of our state and region and become ever more efficient," said Smart. "We'll also continue to advocate for more equitable funding for this university and for higher education in general."