A long-sought proposal to extend University of Missouri worker benefits to same-sex domestic partners has been expanded to include committed couples of the opposite sex, as well as other unrelated dependent couples.
University curators meeting at the system's St. Louis campus Thursday received a brief explanation of the proposed changes as part of a broader personnel update, but didn't discuss or vote on the measure. Administrators at the four-campus system say such broader benefits would cost an extra $1.2 million annually. Previous estimates suggested yearly cost increases of more than $2 million.
The proposed plan extends university health insurance coverage to "sponsored adult dependents" who are older than 18, not related by birth or marriage and have lived with a campus employee for at least 12 months.
Supporters of such expanded benefits include Columbia campus chancellor Brady Deaton and Missouri athletic director Mike Alden. They note that more than 300 colleges and universities already have such perks in place for faculty and staff. So do many of the nation's Fortune 500 companies.
Faculty governance groups at the Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis campuses previously have spoken in favor of expanded partner benefits, suggesting the university is at a disadvantage when recruiting talented professors and other employees who expect such coverage for their loved ones.
Several curators previously have said their decision ultimately will be a financial one, not a moral choice. Human resources director Betsy Rodriguez said Thursday the university system expects employee health care costs to increase by $10 million annually through 2017 — and that doesn't include another $1.75 million in yearly extra costs under the Affordable Health Care Act, primarily with employee dependents up to age 26 now eligible for benefits.
In addition to medical insurance, domestic partners recognized by the university could benefit from tuition discounts and pension rights.
In other business, curators considered a proposal to increase undergraduate tuition for state residents by 2 percent in the next academic year. Out-of-state students at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla and the University of Missouri-St. Louis would pay slightly more.
Some professional school fees and supplemental course costs would be raised more substantially.
The Board of Curators is scheduled to vote on those proposed hikes at its late January meeting, after Gov. Jay Nixon releases his proposed state budget for 2013-14.