Presidents from the colleges and universities around the state have testified to the House Appropriations Committee on Education about what will happen to their institutions if Governor Jay Nixon’s proposed 12.5 percent cut to higher education funding becomes a reality.

University of Missouri System interim president Steve Owens (seated, left) testifies before the House Education Committee.

They all said the outlook is not good.

The University of Missouri System President Steve Owens said the 12.5 percent reduction translates to a $50 million dollar hit to the University’s operating budget. He says the college has avoided raising tuition to deal with past reductions, but says that could only work for so long. The college’s staff has recommended a tuition increase of 6.5 percent, that the Board of Curators will begin considering on Thursday.

Owens says state support for full-time equivalent students at MU is down from $10,400 in 2001 to a projected $5,926 in fiscal year 2013, assuming the proposed cut remains.
The messages from most of the institutions were along similar lines. Cuts would result in increased tuition, cuts to faculty and programs, increased class sizes and postponement to needed maintenance.

The state’s community colleges would also have to hike what they charge students, according to Mineral Area College President Steve Kurtz. “Preliminary discussions with presidents and chancellors indicate that statewide average (increase) is about $4 a credit hour.”

Several of those officials said the efforts to deal with the cut was already underway. Northwest Missouri State University President John Jasinski says plans will be announced next week for cuts and restructuring.

He asked the Committee’s lawmakers to consider what message the state is sending to current and future students. “We spend $16 thousand on non-violent, incarcerated individuals and we’re spending 3, 4 and 5 (thousand) on a full student FTE, what’s the value of higher ed there? What’s the whole tobacco tax situation and what’s happening there? What about the amount of money we give to private higher ed institutions?”

Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) summed up what the testimony meant to her thusly, “It’s going to be difficult to continue to work towards our goal of having more college graduates.”

The Committee will next meet February 7.