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Regional colleges seek equal funding

January 31, 2002
By: Matt Williams
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Higher education officials told a House appropriations committee they wanted to be treated with the same financial kindness that Gov. Bob Holden showed for local public schools.

Leaders of the state's regional state four-year colleges said Holden's budget would force faculty layoffs and tuition increases. The cuts are dramatic, they say, given that Holden proposes giving more money to K-12 education.

"While all of us applaud the emphasis on improving elementary and secondary schools, if we fail to continue to improve our higher education system, then this economy will be hurt," said Dean Hubbard, president of Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville.

Cuts in faculty are almost inevitable at Northwest given the proposed 10 percent cut from last year's budget, Hubbard said. The reduction continues a downward trend in the state's share of the university's budget.

In 1985, the state paid 70 percent of the school's costs while tuition made up 28 percent. Today, state money only makes up half of the budget, with increased tuition bridging the difference.

"In this state, an unconscious decision is being made to shift the burden of higher education on to the students," Hubbard said.

Officials at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, said their 10 percent cut from last year's budget hits hard because they are more dependent on the state for revenues than larger schools like MU. Without a large endowment to make up shortfalls, CMSU vice president Judy Vickrey said cuts would mean higher tuition and fewer student services.

Vickrey said she realizes that cuts need to be made throughout the budget, including higher education, but asked that lawmakers spread the cuts evenly.

"If the state is in dire economic straits and cannot meet its budget, then those losses have to be shared by all state services," Vickrey said.

Rep. Ted Farnen, D-Mexico, said he isn't happy that colleges are being cut, but the legislature has few options to cut spending.

"Because of the way our budget is set up, there are only so many areas that you can cut," Farnen said. "Higher education is one of those areas."

Farnen voted last year to support a new basketball arena at MU, but said the issue is completely unrelated to this year's budget problems.

"It is an incorrect assumption that somehow a vote for that arena is resulting in any of the budget cuts," Farnen said. "They are not related."