Colleges and universities in northwest Missouri are bracing for another wave of cuts from the state after Governor Eric Greitens suggested a $68million reduction for higher education funding.
The Governor's proposed budget for the next fiscal year calls for a 10 percent cut to higher education. This follows a trend of budgetary cuts after colleges and universities saw a seven percent cut in Fiscal Year(FY) 2017 and a nine percent cut in FY 2018.
Northwest Missouri State University President John Jasinski said while the university is doing its best to maintain quality experience for their students, he is concerned for the future if these double-digit cuts become a reality.
“We have significant concerns, we can’t keep doing this. From a state strategic thought complex, we really need to take a step back and say how do we uplift the state. And obviously with education, higher education being the economic driver, and we do have concerns. We can’t cut our way to prosperity,” Jasinski said.
The 10 percent cut would eliminate $2,982,882 from the budget at Northwest Missouri State University and $2,095,376 from Missouri Western State University.
“In my long career, I don’t think I’ve ever seen these kinds of cuts to higher education,” Missouri Western State University President Robert Vartabedian said.
But the 10 percent cut won’t be the only potential reduction for university funds.
“What the governor has proposed is to take another 10 percent out of our budget and have us earn it back through performance funding measures,” Vartabedian said.
Six performance-based standards that could presumably make or break an institutions ability to plan for the next fiscal year. The governor has requested that 10 percent of each institutions budget be used as collateral for their performance-based funding. Each college or university is judged on six pillars of success, and depending on the school's performance in each category, they will receive that funding back.
The pillars translate differently depending on how much 10 percent of the school's budget is. Missouri Western’s pillars cost approximately $333,000 each and Northwest’s pillars cost approximately $483,000. Both universities excel in five out of the six pillars of success, meaning Western will lose $333,000 and Northwest will lose $483,000 in addition to the 10 percent being taken from all their overall budget.
Jasinski emphasized the impact the cuts could have not only on the university, but on the community surrounding the school as well.
“We’ve provided $617,500,000 [in] added economic income and added economic regional development. We have documented $ 66.5million of cost containment and efficiencies over the last four years,” Jasinski said. “We’ve done our part, but when you have double digit cuts a couple years in a row, we are encouraging state lawmakers to step back and think about higher ed strategically to think about us as workforce providers and really being the economic drivers of the state.”
Earlier this week several educators from across the state met with lawmakers in Jefferson City to advocate for less severe way to trim the state budget.
“We’ve spent a fair amount of time in Jefferson City talking to legislators, who indicate quite a bit of support for us, so we’re hopeful they will do something to at least lessen the kinds of cuts the governor is looking at right now,” Vartabedian said.
While the budget has yet to be approved by the legislature, many administrators are concerned for the future funding of higher education.
“It’s very important to maintain a high-quality education system in the state of Missouri. I think these kinds of cuts could really be damaging for years to come,” Vartabedian said.
Universities have used attrition, shortened summer sessions and temporary holds on campus advancements to trim the budget, but there is no guarantee that these state cuts won't result in an increase of tuition and student fees.
Currently the Consumer Price Index permits colleges and universities in Missouri to raise tuition relevant to the cost of inflation, meaning for the next school year students could see tuition increase as much as 2.1 percent.
The final budget for Fiscal Year 2019 is expected to be approved by the state legislature in late spring. The next fiscal year will begin July 1.