Missouri schools discuss 15 percent funding cut to higher education

Thursday, February 2, 2012 | 10:50 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — The proposed 6.5 percent tuition increase to UM campuses received little attention at a state House committee hearing on Wednesday to discuss Gov. Jay Nixon's proposed budget cut to Missouri higher education.

Interim UM System President Steve Owens testified in front of the Education Appropriations Committee, saying the increase is not set in stone. The Board of Curators for the UM System are meeting Thursday and Friday at the Kansas City campus.

While Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, asked Owens to clarify the specifics of the tuition hike, no one else questioned the increase.

While other school presidents testified about the effects of Gov. Nixon's 15 percent higher education budget cuts on their schools, Owens spoke about the value the University of Missouri adds to the state.

Owens also said UM campuses serve around 74,000 students and 64 percent of the state's graduate students. He said Missouri residents voted that support for higher education was the third most important issue facing the state.

In spite of the budget cuts, Owens said he thinks the UM System has made sure to take care of staff and students.

"We feel we've practiced good stewardship in keeping our administrative costs low, directing resources to instruction and assisting families with the cost of a college education," Owens said.

The 15 percent cut estimate accounts for the withhold Nixon applied to higher education after the legislature approved the budget.

Rep. Mike Lair, R-Chillicothe, the chairman of the committee, said after the hearing that the budget cuts will surely be detrimental to Missouri's public education.

"It's getting to the point where we're not cutting fat anymore," Lair said. "We're cutting muscle."

The committee also listened to representatives from other higher education institutions in Missouri such as Lincoln University, Harris-Stowe State University and Moberly Area Community College. Each representative gave the committee a presentation on what the budget cuts meant to their school.

Some representatives from Harris-Stowe said they cannot raise tuition, while other school representatives said they will have to eliminate some academic programs. Moberly Area Community College representatives said they will have to cut classes, which will lead to bigger class sizes.

The university representatives stressed the importance of keeping their school's academic integrity intact.

The committee will be meeting at a later date to further discuss the budget cuts.

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