The state House has finalized its proposed budget for state aid to colleges and universities for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Another favorable vote will send that plan to the Senate for its consideration.
That plan would reduce funding to the University of Missouri by 9-percent, or $50-million, compared to the current fiscal year. This was part of a reduction across all higher education due to the need to reduce spending. Lawmakers blocked on Tuesday attempts to take additional money from MU. House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) urged legislators to not seek to penalize MU over its handling of racial tensions, as many sought to do during last year’s budget debates.
“I don’t like any more than any of you do some of the things that have happened over the last year-and-a-half at the University. That being said, there is a new president at the institution. He has already started implementing changes. I think that a little over 9-percent cut to their operating budget in one year is pretty significant,” said Fitzpatrick. “I think that if we continue to cut the University of Missouri system the message that we are sending across the state is that we’re going beyond punitive reductions at that point. At that point I think we’re sending the message that we are expecting the University to raise tuition to make up the difference that we are going to be causing here if we continue to go down this path.”
Some lawmakers still wanted to take more from MU. Ash Grove Republican Mike Moon wanted to take $1-million from the University to promote tourism.
“One thing that keeps ringing in my mind is $2-million in hidden bonuses that were uncovered by the state auditor,” said Moon, referring to a recent finding regarding the university. “Maybe I should’ve been more diligent and directed where that money be taken, and maybe salaries need to be looked at. These bonuses, though, have to stop,” said Moon.
Moon’s amendment was rejected.
The House also rejected attempts to redirect money that goes toward Lincoln University’s land grant status and the federal dollars that come with it. This was of particular importance to Democrats, including the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, Michael Butler (D-St. Louis).
“We are in danger again this year for a university in the State of Missouri losing those matching funds,” said Butler. “A lot of work on both sides of the aisle has gone into this. We’re very happy with the result even though we’re still $3.6-million away [from where we’d like to be].”
Democrats attempted to remove language in the higher education budget that blocks state money from going to higher education institutions that offer less than the international tuition rate, or scholarships, to students lacking lawful immigration status.
Kansas City Democrat Lauren Arthur called that language punitive, and said it often hurts students who entered the country not by choice but with their parents.
“We passed this language a few years ago and we’ve seen two outcomes for these students. First, they can’t afford to go to college so they don’t … or, they decide to go to college outside of this state, where we lose an individual who is a contributing member of society,” said Arthur.
Fitzpatrick said Missouri must, “prioritize the citizens of the state, and for that matter the United States, when we look at who’s going to pay the lowest rate of tuition … “This was never an issue until the federal government administratively granted lawful presence – not lawful immigration status; they still have an unlawful immigration status – but when they administratively granted lawful presence to people who were here illegally.”
Arthur’s amendment was rejected.
The higher education budget is laid out in House Bill 3. The House is expected to vote Thursday on whether to send that and the rest of its proposed state budget to the Senate.