COLUMBIA – University of Missouri System is being "punished" for increasing tuition, according to four of Columbia's representatives, with a cut in state funds to provide more money for disaster relief.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, Rep. Chris Kelly, Rep. Stephen Webber, and Rep. Mary Still gathered at the steps of Jesse Hall Friday evening to show support for the university after Gov. Jay Nixon's Friday morning announcement that he will cut funding for public colleges and universities in Missouri.
The UM System will receive an 8.1 percent cut in state funds next year, instead of the 5.4 percent reduction previously proposed by lawmakers, Schaefer said.
The $172 million in budget cuts will take effect July 1, when the fiscal year begins, according to an Associated Press article.
This will be the third year in a row Nixon has cut state funding for education, Schaefer said. He described the cuts as an "ongoing trend" for the governor.
"Keep in mind that the governor gave nobody a preview that he was going to do this," Schaefer said.
Kelly said there are several reasonable solutions to the Joplin problem, but "to hide behind the rubble of Joplin to cut the university is inappropriate."
"We can use the Rainy Day Fund," said Kelly, who was the chairman of the committee of the Rainy Day Fund after the 1993 flood. He expressed his concern for the students and their parents of the university always having to be the "loser" on these things.
"The whole state ought to bear the burden, not simply higher education," he said.
The state currently has $500 million in the Rainy Day Fund, Still said.
"I think it's 'raining' in Missouri," she said. Still said she does not see this so much as a budget crisis, as it is a revenue crisis but suggested that Missouri can look at what other states have done and learn from them.
Corporations will pay less revenue than the university, Webber said, providing a different perspective. Thus, middle class Missouri families will pay more because of the tuition increase.
"That's just simple math," he said. "It's a transfer of wealth. Folks at the top paying less, middle class folks in the middle paying more."
Kelly said the tuition increase, which was slotted for student financial health, was supposed to coincide with the 5.4 percent budget cuts passed by the general assembly.
"Budgets are all about priorities," Schaefer said, quoting Nixon at the State of the State Address last year.
The governor should do a wholesale review on some of the social welfare program, Schaefer said.
"When the governor makes the type of cut he makes to the university, that is one program out of billions in welfare programs we have in the state of Missouri that I think should be reviewed," he said.
For three years, rather than fund Missouri's future, the governor is taking money from state's future and continues to expand funding for the Missouri status quo, Schaefer said.
Webber, who is also a law student at MU, is affected by the tuition hike.
"The tuition increase actually affects me," he said. "I will pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more next year in results of tuition increase."
The four speakers each said they felt it was unacceptable for the university to receive such cuts.
"I don't think anyone wants to see tuition go up," Schaefer said. In addition to the cuts, no one wants to see the quality of the education fall either, he said.
"We all need to come together to be part of the the solution," Still said.