Western prepares for large possible cut in higher education funding

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Missouri Western is bracing for possible cuts in state appropriations that could amount to roughly $7.9 million. If the funding is cut by 25 percent, which is a possibility, the amount received from the state in fiscal year 2010 would drop from $25.5 million to $17.6 million.

The $25.5 million would have been the result of an 8.5 percent increase Western was anticipating from the current fiscal year’s appropriation of $23.5 million. The increase was proposed to be 5.5 percent as part of a three year increase totaling 15 percent and the additional three percent was recommended by the Coordinating Board of Higher Education to compensate for the equity factors involved in state funding.

The Missouri General Assembly requested from all state funded agencies and institutions, proposals describing the impact of possible cuts in funding of 15, 20 and 25 percent.

Kathy Love, public information officer with the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE), feels that cutting higher education funding would have a serious impact.

“It doesn’t help the economy to cut higher education because typically during a recession more people will turn to colleges for retraining or to expand their job skills,” Love said. “If we cut the programs that help put them back to work we’re not going to help the economy at all.”

All Missouri institutions were asked to submit scenarios to the MDHE for consideration. The possibilities presented were expectedly dismal.

“They all painted pretty grim pictures,” Love said.

Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis even faces closing their doors if the deep cuts are imposed.

Dan Nicoson, vice- president for university advancement, is not ready to panic yet.

“People here are committed enough that we’re not going to let this situation become disastrous,” Nicoson said.

The proposed cuts are a result of a $340 million budget deficit for Missouri.

“It’s an indication of the downturn nationally,” Love said.

Robert Vartabedian, Western’s president, agrees with Love.

“As the United States goes, so goes the state of Missouri,” Vartabedian said. “The United States is in the middle of a financial freefall. We hope to be encouraged by a new administration that could help jumpstart things.”

Another possible result of budget cuts would be raising tuition. Western has trails other universities in tuition hikes.

“A 25 percent cut would be a very severe cut in the budget, especially at a school that has done its best to hold the line on tuition rates,” Nicoson said. “We didn’t raise tuition at all when everybody else was. We did that out of trying to meet the needs of our students.”

 

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