Cost of tuition raises debate in Missouri House

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Hooting could be heard throughout the Missouri House of Representatives, April 6.

In order to get the attention of Rep. John Patrick Burnett (D-Kansas City), Rep. Jason Glennon Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau) started hooting like an owl. When Burnett did not stop speaking, Crowell threatened to provide him with a prescription for Ritalin.

Debates continued to remain heated as the House stayed in session until midnight. One witness compared the House to a “cat fight.”

The cause of the fuss was the fiscal year budget for 2005. House Bills 1001 through 1012 were presented for perfection.

House Bill 1003 dealt specifically with the higher education budget.

Many argued it would be impossible to fund higher education adequately without a tax increase.

Rep. Yvonne S. Wilson (D-Kansas City), former chancellor at Lincoln University in Jefferson City said she always hated when tuition had to be raised. She was grateful to her family and the state, which helped her get through school.

Crowell questioned Wilson as to whether or not she felt the state should pay for higher education.

Wilson said it was the responsibility of the universities to keep tuition low.

“Madame, I wish you and I could walk hand in hand and look those chancellors in the eye and ask them how dare they raise tuition,” Crowell said.

“Shame on them, shame on the institutions that raise tuition.”

Proponents of a tax increase said it was unfair for students to have to work full time and take out hefty student loans to pay for school when the state could provide.

“Are we going to make it to where only the wealthy can afford to go to college,” said Rep. Rick Johnson (D-High Ridge).

“I would go to night class.,” said Rep. Bryan Stevenson (R-Webb City).

“From midnight till 8 a.m. I worked as an airplane mechanic. Then I would go back to class in the morning and sleep in the afternoons. It took me eight years, but I paid for it all.”

“Now, Rep. Stevenson, I look up to you as a role model like many of the other legislators.” said Rep. Tom Dempsey (R-St.Charles). “I just wonder why it took you eight years to graduate. Some of the representatives were looking at you and wondering if it took you eight years because you were dumb,”

“I graduated with a 3.8 grade- point average,” Stevenson said.

Other representatives shared the viewpoint that working through college was not a bad thing.

“Well, if they think Rep. Stevenson is dumb for taking eight years, they will think I’m really stupid for taking 30 years.” said Rep. Marilyn Ruestman (R-Joplin). “I took sometime off in between to raise my kids and run a business.”

“The answer to everything is not a tax increase,’ said Rep. Steve Hunter (R-Joplin).

“One of the biggest problems is MU is like a spoiled child and thinks it needs to have everything. A lot of the state schools are treated like red-headed step. children.”

No final decision was made.