JEFFERSON CITY - Funding for the state's higher education board would be cut by more than half in next year's state budget, along with cuts to the state's public colleges and universities.
The House Budget Committee approved an amendment Monday that cuts funding to the Coordinating Board for Higher Education by 62 percent below the current year's budget, much more than the 10 percent cut Gov. Bob Holden proposed in his budget.
Board officials said the cuts will make their job of coordinating the efforts of the state's colleges, universities and technical schools almost impossible. The department estimated the $600,000 cut would force them to cut several staff positions and hurt services that the state's colleges depend on.
"Our personnel reductions would affect every part of the department," Assistant Commissioner Joe Martin said. "It would make it impossible to fulfill our statutory duties."
Martin said the board and its staff would have a difficult time approving new projects and processing state aid payments to schools if the cuts were made. For instance, schools might get less federal grant money if there are fewer staff members to process requests, he said.
Rep. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, who proposed the cut, said the board was being penalized for positions it had taken in support of larger universities. Shields, who represents Missouri Western State College, said he voted to cut funding for the board because it isn't serving his school and others.
"I don't think they are fulfilling their mission," Shields said. "Some of their actions have been detrimental to the smaller colleges and universities."
Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, who heads the subcommittee handling higher education funding, said many members are uninformed about what the board does. He said the pressure to cut funding from the budget has resulted in poor decision making.
The increased cut to the board would not directly impact funding to individual schools, which are slated to get a 10 percent cut from last year.
The bill funding higher education was approved by the budget committee this week and will likely be debated on the House floor when the legislature returns from its spring recess.