Higher education wants 49 percent more operating money in the next state budget than it’s getting this year. Those wanting the money admit it’s an ambitious request, and one unlikely to be granted. Missouri’s four-year universities are getting about $719-Million this year. The Coordinating Board for Higher Education is requesting almost $1.1-Billion for the next year. The Higher Education Department says a gap has opened in the last three years – with higher education expenses increasing by 15 percent while state funding has dropped by 12 percent. Higher Education Commissioner Gregory Fitch thinks it’s time to close that gap. He says it’s the Coordinating Board’s responsibility to call attention to the situation – although he knows the Legislature is unlikely to solve the problem. The $1.1-Billion does not include $9-Million for Linn State Tech – which doubles what the school is getting this year, $185-Million for community colleges – a 39 percent increase in funding for them, nor does it include money for capital improvements – new buildings or repairs to existing facilities. The Coordinating Board wants almost $400-Million for that work – on just 14 projects.