The Missouri House has perfected a budget proposal for the next fiscal year including an agreement to hold down college tuition, while restoring $68-million that Governor Eric Greitens (R) proposed cutting from colleges and universities.
The House is proposing putting that money back into the core funding for those institutions, putting them back at the level of state support they are receiving in the current fiscal year. In exchange, the state’s institutions will increase tuition by no more than one-percent in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) proposed an amendment that completed the restoration of that $68-million dollars.
Under the agreement between Fitzpatrick and the institutions, the schools must receive the money the House has proposed appropriating. If the appropriations are withheld by the governor or otherwise do not reach them, they can increase tuition based on the Consumer Price Index.
The agreement is supported by Democrats, including the top Democrat on the budget committee, Kip Kendrick (D-Columbia), whose district includes the University of Missouri’s flagship campus.
“I appreciate this and the whole conversation we’ve had in budget committee and working with the chair on reaching an agreement. I think everyone in here has the intent of … wants to hold tuition increases to a minimum to make sure college remains affordable and accessible for all,” said Kendrick. “Higher education institutions have taken it on the head in the last few years with some major budget cuts, so glad that we can do all that we can this year.”
Until the agreement was reached, Fitzpatrick had proposed putting $30-million of the money that is now going to core funding into the Access Missouri scholarship program, which would have fully funded it. Kendrick is glad to see that money going back to the core, but he hopes Access Missouri receives additional funding in future years.
“I love Access Missouri. It is a fantastic, needs-based scholarship program in the State of Missouri. It is our only needs-based aid program in the state and for a brief moment of time it had 30-million new dollars in it, and I hope that we can do what we can in the future also to make sure that we appropriately fund that line as well,” said Kendrick.
Budget committee member Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) agreed.
“While I wish that we could be funding Access Missouri and I hope that we try to do so in the future, representing Missouri State, one of the institutions who is a big part of this agreement, I was thankful for the budget chair to have the discussion and have everybody at the table and come up with this solution,” said Quade.
The tuition agreement does not extend to Missouri Southern in Joplin. Fitzpatrick said their financial situation is dire enough that he agreed to let them opt out of the one-percent tuition cap requirement.
The funding for higher education is found in House Bill 2003, which itself appropriates more than $1.17-billion. The House is expected to vote on that and the rest of the budget bills on Thursday.
If passed, they will go to the Senate, which will spend the coming weeks developing its own budget proposal based on the House’s plan. The two chambers will then attempt to compromise on a final spending plan to send to the governor in May.