Eric Greitens proposes $68 million cut to higher education

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In his annual State of the State address, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens proposed a $68 million cut to state higher education funding.

In a statement to staff, President Robert Vartabedian said that this cut would equate to a $2.2 million reduction for Missouri Western.

This is the second round of cuts that the governor has proposed since he took office last year. Vice President of Financial Planning and Administration Cale Fessler says that these cuts were not as expected as the ones from last year.

“Last year we kind of knew that cuts were headed this way,” Fessler said. “We didn’t have that same level of feeling that cuts were imminent this year. We knew that the state’s revenue picture wasn’t rosy, but we also hadn’t heard anything about an addition withhold in this particular fiscal year as we had this time last year.”

Last year, most of the cuts were made through personnel attrition and limiting services. Fessler says that it will be difficult to address these cuts the same way.

“We’re eventually going to come out to a number that will take some cutting to get to,” Fessler said. “Obviously, we’ll have some level of potential tuition increase, most likely to students. Currently, SB 389 will limit that to CPI, so that’ll be in place. Certainly, we wouldn’t say that that’s a 100 percent given, but that will be something that we’ll be discussing.”

Last year, Western suspended the Western Playhouse and the debate team in response to the cuts, but the rest of the cuts were able to be met largely through attrition.

“It’ll really require, as it did last time, a full-scale evaluation of everything we do,” Fessler said. “We were able to deal with the bulk of the cut last year through attrition, through positions coming open. We could find ourselves in a difficult position to do that all through attrition this time.”

Several administrators, including Director of External Relations Brandt Shields, spent several days in Jefferson City in an attempt to show Missouri lawmakers the benefits of higher education.

“We convey to lawmakers just how important Missouri Western is in the grand scheme of things for our students, for our regions, for our community,” Shields said.

Shields says that lawmakers are concerned about the cuts that higher education has seen recently.

“Having met with several legislators,” Shields said, “I think many are concerned about the cuts that higher education has taken in the previous years and understanding the need for an educated workforce and understanding the great service that higher education in Missouri provides — whether that be the two year or four year campuses —is extremely important for the future of Missouri.”

Specifically, Shields is concerned about the long-term economic implications of the cuts.

“I think there are lots of concerns about an undereducated workforce when you talk about economic development,” Shields said. “When we go out and try to attract businesses to Missouri, we want to show that we have a strong workforce that has various degrees and certificates, that can meet any of the demands that these businesses might have.”

Shields said that he felt good about the conversations that Western’s administration had in the capitol.

“A lot of legislators have great respect for Missouri Western and what we do here in St. Joe and beyond St. Joe,” Shields said. “And we know all of our meetings with legislators this week were very favorable.”

The budget proposal is not finalized and the Missouri legislature will continue to deliberate before a final budget is put forth.