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Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC)
Strategic Budget Advisory Committee

Budget Woes Lead Mizzou to Consider 3-Year Bachelor's Degrees

December 10, 2009

By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER - The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. —Add the University of Missouri to the growing number of schools considering three-year undergraduate degrees to reduce college costs.

University of Missouri president Gary Forsee told anxious employees Wednesday that the gloomy economy and continued lack of adequate state support will force the four-campus system to consider the option of a "no-frills degree."

He cautioned that the idea of a truncated undergraduate degree program is merely for discussion's sake — at least for now. There is no specific proposal on the table.

"People just can't afford to waste time and money anymore," Forsee told about 100 people on the Columbia campus at a town hall budget meetings for students, professors and campus workers. "There's a national appetite to get through faster... and finish cheaper."

Three years of undergraduate education is the norm in Europe, but so far only a handful of U.S. schools — including Bates College in Maine and Ball State University in Indiana — have followed suit.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has said that statewide higher education spending must be cut by about $50 million in the coming fiscal year, a relatively minor hit compared to some cash-strapped states.

California, for example, has approved a 32 percent fee increase for students attending that state's top public schools. Those increases come on top of 20 percent spending cuts and enrollment cuts.

Nixon struck a deal with Forsee and other higher education leaders that calls for tuition and academic fees at Missouri's public four-year schools to remain frozen at current rates for the second consecutive year. The pact is subject to approval by state lawmakers, who return to Jefferson City next month.

Forsee also talked about other cost-saving approaches Wednesday, including pursuit of new ways to finish delayed construction projects. The university system has seen its efforts to get state money for capital construction projects, such as a new cancer research center in Columbia, repeatedly fall short in recent years.

Forsee said he will return to Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis and Rolla in early 2010 to meet with civic leaders about possible public-private partnerships.

He said that it's time to move past "the old-fashioned way of waiting for the state... or relying on donors" to help pay for big-ticket construction projects.