COLUMBIA — The University of Missouri System faces more than $38 million in budget cuts by the end of June, with almost $20 million of that coming from MU, according to the Missouri Office of Administration. 

MU spokesman Christian Basi said he could not confirm the state's numbers.

"We are currently working with leadership to determine where we need to trim the budget, but no specific decisions have been made," he said. 

“We certainly understand that our state leaders have to make difficult decisions in challenging budgetary times,” UM System spokesman John Fougere said in an emailed statement from the system. “We are committed to working closely with our new governor and General Assembly in making the case for the University of Missouri System’s enormous positive impact on all of Missouri’s citizens and economy.”

He later added, “We will be having discussions with our leadership over the next few weeks to develop a strategy going forward to address the decrease in funding.”

On Monday, Gov. Eric Greitens announced he will withhold more than $80 million in higher education funding over the next six months. The cuts come as part of an effort to address an estimated $456 million gap for fiscal 2017 and adds to the approximately $200 million in holds made by former Gov. Jay Nixon shortly before he left office, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Educators and lawmakers alike acknowledged that cuts needed to be made, but Columbia-area lawmakers aren’t pleased that higher education is bearing the brunt.

"Obviously I was disappointed," said State Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia. "I think at this point, our objective is to figure out ways to grow the economy and figure out ways to make sure we’re not back in this spot again next year."

Rowden said Greitens has tough decisions to make because cuts must be made to the budget, something he hopes Missourians understand.

"I hope that they know we still have their backs, and we’re going to do everything we can do to reverse these withholds as quickly as possible."

Other area lawmakers shared Rowden's sentiments.

“It’s troubling,” state Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, said. "I know it’s not good news for MU, especially. It’s something we’re going to look into and hopefully make some corrections.”

The operating budgets of each of the four UM System campuses will be cut, totaling $38.3 million. The cuts will happen between February and June 30, the end of the state's fiscal year, said Missouri Acting Budget Director Dan Haug.

Here are the cuts to the four campuses operating budgets:

• $13.7 million to MU

• $5.7 million to the University of Missouri-Kansas City

• $3.9 million to the Missouri Institute of Science and Technology

• $4.3 million to the University of Missouri-St. Louis

MU Extension will be cut $1.9 million. Systemwide operations and system administration will be cut a total of $1.3 million.

Funding was also cut for several special projects affiliated with the UM System. At MU, the Cooperative Medical School will be cut $4 million and the MU Telehealth Network will be cut $121,250.

Out of the $80 million in cuts, close to $12 million will come from state aid to community colleges.

Jeff Lashley, president of Moberly Area Community College, said the college will lose roughly $500,000 in expected revenue. State aid makes up nearly a quarter of the college’s revenue, he said, so losing that funding is a major blow.

"It’d be like you kind of suddenly just getting a reduction to your salary, and then you just have to figure out what that means to your budget,” Lashley said.

Maggie Kost, communications manager for the Missouri Community College Association, said the cuts are proportional to the amount of state aid received, but where the individual schools make cuts is up to them. That leaves people like Lashley with some difficult choices.

The cuts aren’t necessarily done coming, either. He said more reductions could be looming but hopes MACC and higher education aren’t hit again.

"I’m certainly hopeful that we’re not included in any additional cuts, because it would just be difficult to absorb more,” Lashley said. “I’m sure the governor will do his best not to cut higher education any more, but he has hard decisions to make."

Despite the cuts to higher education, Greitens pledged “not a single penny will be coming out of our K-12 classrooms” in a video posted to his Twitter account on Monday. However, the cuts do include $8.6 million in busing to K-12 districts and $194,000 in teacher training and development, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville, said the state must live within its means. “Although I fully support higher education, I was pleased to hear (Greitens’) recommendation will be to not cut K-12" funding, she said.

Reisch said she could not say at this point whether she agrees with the governor’s proposed cuts. “We’ll be working very hard to do the best we can with what we have,” she said.

Rowden said it's impossible to meet all needs when making tough budget choices.

"I think the reality of his situation is that you withhold money from higher education and you upset one constituency, or you withhold money from K through 12 and higher education and you upset two constituencies," Rowden said. "I think the governor is committed to higher education, and I’ve had conversations with him that would indicate that is true."

Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said the cuts represent a "continued divestment in higher education."

"States that fund higher education adequately have lower student debt (and) have better access to higher education for their residents," Kendrick said. "It’s part of driving our economy forward in the 21st century."

Kendrick has proposed bills that address rising student debt.

This week's announcement by Greitens comes on the heels of previous reductions to MU's budget.

These cuts follow a previously announced $3.8 million cut to the UM System budget for this fiscal year. During the last legislative session, legislators said the cuts served as punishment for poor system leadership during campus protests about racism that culminated in the resignation of former UM System President Tim Wolfe.

Cuts targeted to specific campuses within the UM System were unprecedented before 2016. In the past, the legislature appropriated money to the UM System as a lump sum. During the past session, the legislature appropriated money to each campus individually.

A specific budget plan likely will not be announced until early February, according to previous Missourian reporting.

In addition, in March, Interim MU Chancellor Hank Foley announced a 5 percent cut to MU’s general revenue budget for fiscal year 2017 and a hiring freeze due to a drop in enrollment.

Missourian reporters Isabella Alves and Lucille Sherman contributed to this report.

Supervising editors are Mark Horvit and Elizabeth Brixey.

  • Ellen is an assistant city editor for spring 2017. She has reported on the Missouri General Assembly and Columbia city government for the Missourian. Reach her at: eccg25@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at (573) 882-5720

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