The Senate appropriations committee says it will try to reduce higher education cuts while keeping K through 12 funding level.

It was standing room only at the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting as dozens showed up to testify on proposed cuts to higher education.

Senator David Pearce (R-Warrensburg) sits on the appropriations committee and is chairman of the education committee. He says most of those making their case to appriations for funding have asked legislators to hold the line on last year’s levels. That is the Governor’s recommendation, and the legislature’s intention for elementary and secondary education, $3.9 billion.

Higher education is a different story. Governor Nixon has proposed cuts to Missouri’s colleges and universities totalling $106 million, a 12.5 percent cut. The state’s higher education institutions have responded by saying those cuts will force tuition hikes, a reduction in courses and staff pay. If the proposed cuts are finalized, higher education funding would equal what it was in 1997.

Pearce says the committee has heard the pleas from higher education officials, but committee chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) says it’s too soon to say how … or how much of that funding would come through.

Last year, higher education funding was cut by about 7 percent.

The education committee is looking at bills that would “fix” or rewrite the foundation formula to fund public schools, but Pearce says that process works independently from the funding itself.

“The formula distributes, no matter how much is put it in,” he says. “So it’s kind of two different things in the same process.”

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports (1:14 min.)