Missouri House, public colleges work out funding deal
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri House agreed Tuesday to set aside another $30 million for higher education after the budget chairman said most colleges and universities had agreed to limit tuition hikes in exchange for avoiding state cuts.
Only Missouri Southern State University in Joplin did not sign off on the agreement to limit tuition increases to 1 percent, Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick said under the plan, colleges still would be getting less than what lawmakers budgeted for them last year, which they’ll likely never receive because Republican Gov. Eric Greitens cut this year’s funding.
“But I think that what we’re doing here represents a good compromise for holding costs down for students and families in the state who are trying to attend college,” Fitzpatrick told colleagues on the House floor.
The budget plan still must clear other legislative hurdles in the House before heading to the Senate.
Higher education funding was put at risk after Greitens proposed another $68 million in cuts next fiscal year on top of what he cut this year, generally citing increased spending on health care and growth in “administrative costs” at many universities. The next fiscal year begins in July.
Legislative leaders quickly panned Greitens’ plan and pledged to undo some, if not all, of his recommended cuts.
Greitens’ spokesman, Parker Briden, did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the House plan.
An earlier proposal passed by the House Budget Committee included $38 million more for schools than what Greitens suggested. Fitzpatrick promised the rest if public colleges and universities would agree not to raise in-state undergraduate tuition, although the final deal gives them more leeway and completely restores the $68 million Greitens recommended cutting.
While Fitzpatrick said most schools agreed to cap tuition hikes at 1 percent, he said they could opt to raise tuition at the rate of inflation if they don’t end up getting full funding. That could happen if Greitens decides to cut higher education again next fiscal year in order to balance the budget.
House members appear on track to pass a budget plan that also includes $48 million for early education programs, which Greitens didn’t include in his original budget recommendation. Adding the money would fulfill promises made by lawmakers in 2014, when they passed a law to boost early education funding if they meet funding goals for K-12 schools.
Lawmakers shot down a pitch Tuesday to lift a ban on funding going toward drunken driving checkpoints, as well as an unsuccessful effort to allow public colleges and universities to offer lower tuition rates for students without a legal immigration status without the threat of losing funding.
Higher education budget bill is HB 2003 .