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Area college administrators, lawmakers unhappy with governor's budget proposals

Area college administrators, lawmakers unhappy with governor's budget proposals

January 28th, 2018 by Bob Watson in Missouri News

Braden Moser, left, listens as Gov. Eric Greitens, middle, speaks to State Tech President Shawn Strong during a visit Friday, April 7, 2017, to the technical school's main campus in Linn. Greitens was on hand for the SkillsUSA Competition hosted by State Technical College.

Photo by Bob Watson /Fulton Sun.

Administrators at two Mid-Missouri colleges said last week they understand the state is facing a tight budget situation, but Gov. Eric Greitens' proposed cuts to higher education will just make their work harder.

Greitens last week released a budget plan that includes a $92 million reduction in state funding for Missouri's colleges and universities from last year's budgeted amount.

"We're watching out for the tax dollars of the people of Missouri," the governor said as he announced his budget proposal, "and also making the tough choices that are necessary to make sure that we don't burden Missouri's children with debt."

Lincoln University officials said in an email, "While we understand that cuts are never easy to make in any organization, Lincoln University will face even greater difficulty in dealing with another round of cuts."

Shawn Strong, president of State Technical College of Missouri, Linn, said: "Growing and even maintaining high-quality programs becomes more difficult when we cannot depend on support from the State of Missouri."

Both schools have communicated with lawmakers, including state Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City.

Kehoe said, "The governor's proposed budget is just that — a proposal.

"He has the constitutional responsibility to submit a budget, and the Legislature has the constitutional responsibility to craft and pass a balanced budget for the next fiscal year."

Still, Kehoe said, "I was disappointed to see the governor's proposed cuts to both Lincoln University and State Technical College.

"These proposed cuts do not support the governor's stated goals of bringing jobs to Missouri and growing the economy, as both require a skilled and educated workforce."

Kehoe said, after talking with other senators, "I am confident that there will be substantial changes to what the governor proposed, including higher education funding."

Shortly after Greitens released his budget proposals last week, Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said: "We cannot continue to balance the budget on the backs of students; they are the future workers and job creators Missouri desperately needs to cultivate.

"Continuing to neglect our public colleges, universities and trade schools seriously hinders Missouri's ability to compete. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass a budget that better reflects Missourians' priorities."

Freshman state Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, said: "Ideally, there would be no cuts to higher education, but the Missouri Constitution requires that our budget be balanced, and tough decisions must be made.

"I will join my colleagues from the area to try to find funding from other sources to avoid education cuts."

The governor said his administration is going to work with higher education administrators to help "make some hard choices" in reducing expenses.

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"There's been a growth in administrative costs at many of our universities," Greitens said. "We want to thank university leaders who've worked in partnership with us to identify savings."

In its statement to the News Tribune, Lincoln's administrators said, "We will strive to continue to educate those who will serve as leaders in our communities, state and nation tomorrow, but it is hard to imagine doing so with dollars and people that are already stretched to their maximum capacity today.

"The Lincoln University Budget Committee has already been meeting in the prior months to begin discussing the budget forecast and they will continue to meet, now with this new information."

And for State Tech, Strong said: "For several months we have been planning for a number of budget scenarios.

"The new recommendation will further shape those discussions but at this point we have not decided what areas will feel the greatest impact by these cuts."

About a year ago, Strong and his administration announced plans to try to grow enrollment by 20 percent, with the increased tuition income helping offset state revenue shortfalls.

Strong said last week, "We are on track to meet many of the goals of that growth plan including a record first-year enrollment last fall.

"Honestly, it is hard for any plan to account for multiple years of budget cuts.

"My fear is I will have to deliver the message we met all of our goals but it is still not enough."