Missouri State University and other public universities across the state could see state funding restored after Missouri House of Representatives passed a new budget last month.
The Missouri House passed a $28 billion state budget on March 29 for the 2019 fiscal year that restored the $68 million Gov. Eric Greitens cut from higher education in his budget proposal released Jan. 22.
“I think that if we were going to do another (cut) we should also require our state departments to cut to a similar level from their budgets,” Missouri Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick said. “We haven’t done that, so we wanted to figure out a way to treat the institutions fairly.”
Of the $68 million restoration, MSU would receive about $6.5 million back in state funding. The rest of the funding Greitens cut from MSU, about $2.5 million, will still be withheld from this state budget.
“We’re not done yet, but it is a good positive step,” MSU President Clif Smart said.
Fitzpatrick, also the budget chairman for the Missouri House, headed budget creation and said the funding cut for higher education was “pretty extreme.”
“I didn’t feel that was appropriate,” Fitzpatrick said. “Two years in a row, I think we’ve asked a lot of the institutions this year with the 10 percent reductions that occurred last year. I just didn’t feel it was appropriate to do that again.”
A tuition increase cap inserted as a stipulation with the restoration of higher education funding will limit next year’s tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students to 1 percent. This equates to an increase of $2 per credit hour.
With the possible funding restoration in consideration, university administrators and board members are now pursuing two paths of budget creation for the university, each dependent on whether the state’s budget officially restores funding for MSU.
“The big unknown is that the governor hasn’t been involved in these conversations,” Smart said. Smart later said, “Even though the legislature is restoring the money, what we don’t know is whether if at any point the governor would withhold some or all of the money that’s been restored.”
Smart also said it is unclear if this restoration is a turn around from the previous years of funding cuts for public universities.
“Not knowing where (Greitens) stands and knowing that the governor’s role in budgeting is really critical, it is hard to know,” Smart said. “Is this a one-year reprieve or is it a longer-term solution? I think time will tell on that, there is just no way to know right now.”
The Missouri Senate has over four weeks to approve a budget before it is sent to Greitens.
“I think that the Senate will maintain at least the same amount of money that we have in higher education funding,” Fitzpatrick said. “They could do more; they could do less. But all the signals I’ve received from the Senate are that they intend to do at least what we did in terms of funding.”