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Lawmakers meet with university presidents to discuss grim higher education budget

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Some of the lawmakers who control Missouri's higher education budget met with college presidents in the Capitol Wednesday to digest a grim budget picture for next year.

Gov. Eric Greitens proposed a nearly $100 million cut in higher education funding for the 2019 fiscal year, a cut of roughly 10 percent from this year's 2018 budget.

Greitens had originally proposed a $160 million cut last year, of which some was restored by lawmakers. However, as of Wednesday, Greitens was still withholding $35 million in higher education funding originally appropriated for 2018.

“Seeing the numbers really put it into focus for us, because a reduction in our budget will mean we will have less students for our services and less ability for us to meet our objectives when it comes to student success,”  said University of Missouri System President Mun Choi.

The UM system tightened its belt by eliminating 500 jobs in 2017. The system includes UMSL and Mizzou. If the legislature were to pass the governor's proposed budget, the system would get its smallest appropriation since 19-98.

“We believe there is going to be significant cuts and a significant number of layoffs. We are trying to avoid that,” Choi said. “We’re trying to make sure we have the workforce of outstanding faculty and staff to meet the needs of our students.” 
Missouri has been a national leader in holding down the cost of tuition over the last decade, but those days could soon be over.
Lawmakers and college administrators are talking this year about repealing a state law capping tuition increases at the rate of inflation.

“Given the climate of continued reduced funding from the state, we have to look to continue to look for ways to grow the revenue through increases in tuition.” 

“They [colleges] need to know that there are people up here fighting for them and that we do understand that they’ve been hit really hard. For some reason it seems like when the budget is off, we get hit,” said state Rep. Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson.

Greitens has called his budget proposal  "common sense" and "conservative" and notes it includes an increase in appropriations in 2019 for K-12 education over the 2018 level. 
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