Missouri Senate Passes 4.8 Percent University Budget Cut

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Missouri State Senators voted Wednesday, April 20 to pass their budget proposal including a higher education budget cut of only 4.8 percent. This is 3.2 percent lower than what Gov. Jay Nixon had proposed earlier this year. Western’s administration is hoping that the budget cuts do not exceed Nixon’s proposed 7 percent. If the House of Representatives agrees with the Senate those cuts could be even lower.

“We feel assured by the Senators and Representatives we have visited that the cuts will not exceed 7 percent,” MWSU President Robert Vartabedian said in a recent interview with Griffon Today (A new student broadcast news program).  Vartabedian and a team of Western’s administrators visited Jefferson City earlier this year to speak with state politicians. During those meetings they became assured that the cuts would not exceed the governor’s proposed 7 percent.

Western’s administration has petitioned the Council on Public Higher Education in Missouri for approval of Western’s proposed tuition increase without penalties provided for by Senate Bill 389. If approved the total tuition increase this fall will be 9.5 percent to help offset last year’s cuts and the proposed cuts for this year.

Members of Missouri’s House of Representatives have kept the 7 percent budget cut to universities as proposed by the governor in their proposed budget. The senate and house have until May 6 to reach an agreement and take a proposed budget to the governor for final approval.

“That 4.8 percent is only proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee, it has a long way to go,” Vice President of Financial Planning and Administration Mel Klinkner said. He also said he is focused on the approval of the tuition increase. “If the cuts are lower than expected, then it’s all the better.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, Kurt Schaefer approached a group representing public two-year colleges and four-year universities last week with the offer to reduce the budget cut providing that some of the additional money would be used to lower student’s out-of–pocket expenses. Those savings were not spelled out, but they could come in the form of student scholarships, lower tuition, or lower cost for housing and meals.

“I think this is a good first step for this year to show our commitment to education,” Schaefer said.

For fiscal year 2013 Missouri will be approaching the expiration of a federal economic stimulus program funds. This will result in a $200 million to $700 million shortfall in the 2013 budget. Schaefer is taking a wait and see position when considering the 2013 budget. He said that he believes it is better to get more accurate information later than trying to propose this year’s budget while considering next year’s potential shortfalls.

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