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Governor, University Presidents Reach Funding Agreement

Governor Jay Nixon was on the Missouri State University campus today to announce a higher education funding agreement. Under the plan, universities agree to freeze tuition for in-state students while the state only cuts higher education funding for four-year universities by about 5%. KSMU’s Missy Shelton was at the governor’s press conference and files this report.

It sounds like a straightforward arrangement. Universities agree not to raise tuition on in-state undergraduates. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon agrees to cut higher education funding only by about 5 percent in his budget proposal. And if you were listening to the governor during his press conference at Missouri State University, it sounded like a done deal.

Nixon says, “Next year, for the second year in a row, Missouri students at our public, four year colleges and universities won’t see an increase in their tuition or academic fees. Not one penny. Period.”

The agreement is only between Nixon and the university presidents. Ultimately, state lawmakers will have the final say. Republican majorities in the House and Senate will have to approve a budget that reflects this agreement before it becomes a reality. Still, students at the press conference said they were pleased with this announcement. Mindy Dilley is a senior at Missouri State.

Dilley says, “I think it’s really great. I know my parents, like every parent is going through hard times so it’s kind of a sigh of relief for me, knowing I’m not such a burden on my family. It’s a good announcement.”

Dilley says she’s not worried about the impact the state funding cut will have on her education. But some faculty members are a little more concerned. Dr. George Connor is head of the Political Science Department. He says the problem is not so much with a 5 percent cut in the next budget year…it’s the potential for additional cuts in the next 3 to 5 years.

Connor says, “I think to a certain degree, the university can absorb 5 percent. Now, can we absorb 5 percent on top of the $10 million in federal stimulus money? And can we do this next year and the next year? It really depends on how long the recession lasts, how long it takes us to get out of it.”

Nixon says he’s working on a similar kind of agreement with community colleges.###