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Missouri bill would allow higher college tuition hikes

The bill passed Tuesday also would allow universities to charge different tuition rates depending on the degree or major
Credit: iStockphoto

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri colleges and universities would have free rein to hike student tuition under a bill the GOP-led House passed Tuesday. 

Lawmakers voted 128-14 in favor of the bill, with 12 avoiding weighing in directly by voting "present." The provision was tacked on another wide-ranging bill dealing with numerous higher education issues. 

If enacted, the bill would remove caps on tuition increases passed by state lawmakers back in 2007. 

The Legislature initially banned any tuition increase above the rate of inflation. In 2018, lawmakers loosened those restrictions by passing a bill allowing schools to raise tuition to make up for any cuts to higher education funding by the state the previous year. Those hikes are limited to 5%. 

The bill passed Tuesday also would allow universities to charge different tuition rates depending on the degree or major.

Advocates to remove tuition caps argued some schools are struggling to make ends meet and need the flexibility to raise tuition higher. 

Republican Rep. Doug Richey, an adjunct professor from Excelsior Springs who sponsored the standalone proposal, said even without the state caps, colleges will be limited in how much they raise tuition because hikes that are too steep will lead to a drop in student enrollment. 

"You're not going to be able to raise tuition without concern about pricing yourself out of the market quickly," Richey said. 

Critics ranged from Republicans who said colleges already have enough money to Democrats who argued the state, not students, should chip in more money for public higher education. 

Republican Rep. J. Eggleston, of Maysville, said tuition caps protect families. 

"The higher ed system has enough money as it is," Eggleston said. "They already can up their tuition based on the cost of living index." 

He called the provision on tuition a poison pill for the omnibus higher education bill, meaning it ultimately will doom the measure's chances of passing. 

The bill now goes to the Republican-led Senate for consideration.