JEFFERSON CITY — The Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday unanimously passed the state’s $21 billion budget, which includes a more than 4 percent increase to higher education and the University of Missouri System.
But some Democratic senators don’t think that’s enough.
“It isn’t what the original commitment was, and we still are back to our 2001 levels,” Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said. “The burden has been shifted over to students because we haven’t kept up.”
This budget includes more than $430.8 million to MU, up from $412.9 million from last year. Jim Snider, senior lobbyist for the UM System, said the only difference between the governor’s recommendations and what the Senate approved is that there is $100,000 more appropriated to the UM System.
Missouri’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education recommended that funding for colleges and universities be increased by 12.6 percent.
Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, said that higher education funding is “absolutely not enough,” but that everything is suffering.
Bray, who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, added that the governor has recommended that the board’s recommendation be fulfilled in three years.
The governor’s plan would increase funding by more than 4 percent each year. Snider said the university is “generally pleased” with the budget.
Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said it’s not surprising that tuition has been steadily rising the past few years, but added that the legislature and institutions are both to blame for rising tuition.
“The fact that the legislature has reduced commitments of state funds has put pressure on institutions to cover those costs other ways, and that puts pressure on institutions to raise tuition,” he said.
The UM System Board of Curators on April 6 voted to increase tuition by 3.8 percent next year. Even with this increase, Nodler said that he believes there is a responsibility on all sides.
The Senate Appropriations Committee made few changes to the budget that was passed by the Housein March. However, the committee did restore $250,000 to the UM System that was earmarked for the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life. That institute, based at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, had lost the funding in the House after some Republican legislators called it partisan.
The budget must now be passed by the Senate, which Bray said she expects to happen this week.