JEFFERSON CITY — Representatives on behalf of both public universities and community colleges spoke against a proposed Senate bill Tuesday afternoon that would limit fee increases at public universities.
While public universities in Missouri face a cap with tuition costs, legislation allows the same universities to raise fees to their discretion. A Senate bill proposed Tuesday afternoon to the education committee would place the same cap on fees, prohibiting them from being higher than the inflation rate.
Both course fees and supplemental fees would be included in this cap.
Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, the bill's sponsor, says a sharp rise in fees can still cause hardship on a student, even if their tuition is capped.
"That's unacceptable when somebody is having to pay that bill," Schatz said, "some student has signed up for that, they're not prepared to take on that additional burden."
Paul Wagner, Executive Director of the Council on Public Higher Education, said that when the original tuition cap legislation was drafted, the two fees that were exempt were student approved fees and subject fees.
"If it was for a specific purpose, that wasn't charged to every student, then they wanted those fees to be outside, too. They wanted program fees to be outside of that cap," Wagner said.
The bill also would lock tuition for college freshman for four years.
Wagner cited several states such as Kansas and Georgia that tried tuition freezes, but did not find them successful.
"Institutions or states that have tried this 'locked for four years' tuition, have found that it has not been successful for them and they've gone away from it," Wagner said.
According to Wagner, the University of Kansas set a specific rate for a four-year window in anticipation of the inflation rate. Students who decided to opt in to the university's locked tuition rate did not benefit more than students who paid on a year-to-year basis.
Schatz says the legislation would provide a sense of economic security for students enrolling in college.
"Fee increases are out of control and so this is an attempt to reign in and close this loophole," Schatz said. "And at the end of the day my goal is to let a student know what degree they are pursuing, how much it is going to cost them over a four-year period of time."
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