House committee offers to restore funding to higher education

8 months 4 weeks 1 day ago Wednesday, March 14 2018 Mar 14, 2018 Wednesday, March 14, 2018 7:49:00 PM CDT March 14, 2018 in News
By: Lindsey Fafoglia, KOMU 8 Reporter
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JEFFERSON CITY - The House budget committee is offering to restore funding to higher education, so long as state colleges and universities refrain from increasing tuition. 

"At this point, $38 million of the proposed $68 million in cuts has been restored to the core," Rep. Kip Kendrick D-Columbia said.

He said the house budget committee would officially vote on it by the end of Wednesday.

"And I fully expect it will pass," Kendrick said. 

This restored funding comes from House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick's state spending plan, which was presented last week. It will restore funding to higher education after Gov. Eric Greiten's proposed budget cuts of at least $68 million to higher education.

"At this point, there is still $30 million dollars that's hanging out there. It's currently parked in the Missouri Access Program, a needs-based program," he said.

Kendrick said the chair's intent is to reach an agreement on holding tuition as flat as possible, before that money would be completely restored.

"This is still very early on in the process, this is the House's attempt to restore the funding," he said. "Hopefully by the time we get the bills passed out of the House in late March to early April we have some type of agreement, and are able to restore that money." 

If there is no agreement, Kendrick said they will look to the Senate for additional funding for what has been recommended to be cut from higher education. 

There is no word from colleges and universities on whether they will reach an agreement to not increase tuition.

KOMU 8 News reached out to MU News Bureau Director Christian Basi for comment, but did not receive a response. 

"I think at this point, there are a few hold-outs on reaching a full agreement, and I think all the four-year institutions, before any of them move forward individually, they want to come together as a group and make sure they're all on the same page on this," Kendrick said.

If the universities don't reach an agreement on the house side, then the $30 million will stay in the Access Missouri Financial Assistance Program, which is the only needs-based scholarship program in the state. Kendrick said he is happy that the money is in this line item, but he hopes to restore that money to the institutions, as well.

"To make sure that we are making college affordable and accessible for middle income, low income individuals, but then also making sure that the institutions are in the least worst situation possible, heading into the FY19 budget year." 

He said there is also special initiative line items, such as the University of Missouri partnership, expansion of the medical school program in Springfield, the dental school expansion, and a few others. The funding for these items was restored to the 60 percent level, and that money will be moved from line items to the core funding, in order to protect them from future budget cuts, Kendrick said. 

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