JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — College athletes could cash in on their fame, but students also could face higher tuition rates as a result of legislation that won final approval Friday in Missouri.
The bill would add Missouri to a growing list of states enacting laws that would allow student athletes to earn money for autographs, sponsorships or other uses of their names, images, likenesses or athletic reputations.
Missouri lawmakers said it was vital to keep pace with other states, especially in the Southeastern Conference, where there is stiff competition to recruit top athletes. Governors in Georgia and South Carolina signed similar bills last week, and athlete compensation measures also have been passed in the rival SEC states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Mississippi.
“We need to get the blue chip recruits to the University of Missouri," Republican state Rep. Kurtis Gregory, a former Missouri football player, said during prior debate on the bill.
The athlete compensation measure is included in a broader higher education bill that would repeal a cap — effective in July 2022 — on annual tuition rate increases that has been in place for more than a decade. That provision also would allow colleges and universities to charge different tuition rates for different types of courses, so long as they no longer charge course fees.
Some supporters of the tuition changes said they are necessary, in part, because state funding for higher education has declined in some years or failed to keep pace with inflation during the past decade.
It's an “absolute shame this has to happen,” said Democratic state Rep. Peter Merideth, who nonetheless supported the bill.
The House gave final approval Friday to the legislation, which previously passed the Senate. It now goes to Gov. Mike Parson.
Other provisions of the bill would grant statewide missions to several universities.
Southeast Missouri State University would be given a statewide mission in the visual and performing arts, computer science and cybersecurity.
Northwest Missouri State University would gain a statewide mission in educator preparation, emergency and disaster management, and profession-based learning.
Harris-Stowe State University would get a statewide mission in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for under-represented and under-resourced students.