The Missouri budget for fiscal year 2018 will cut higher education funding by $116 million, Gov. Eric Greitens said in a press conference in Nixa on Thursday.
The cut includes a $22.9 million decrease of UM System’s state funding compared to last year.
Gov. Greitens outlined his budget in a speech at one of the town’s public schools. During his address, Greitens said that he had to make “tough choices” because of the state in which he found Missouri’s budget.
“This wasn't about politics, it was just about math,” Greitens said. “When we took office, we discovered the politicians had promised people over $700 million that we didn't have in the bank account.”
Although he acknowledged that the cuts were higher than expected by the universities, Greitens called for efforts from higher education institutions.
“In the last four years, higher education has gotten a total increase of over $100 million,” Greitens said. “So I'm confident that this year, they can tighten their belts just like the rest of us, and help us focus on excellence and get back to basics. And I know that college administrators and university presidents can work with us to save taxpayer money.”
UM System President Michael Middleton commented the announcement in a statement.
“We understand that the governor has to make difficult state funding decisions when revenues fall and budgets are tight,” Middleton said. “These cuts will make it challenging for the University of Missouri System to meet its critical statewide mission of educating our state’s future workforce, performing lifesaving research, and helping move Missouri’s economy forward.” Middleton said the UM System’s leadership will be discussing strategies to address the decrease in funding.
State Representative Donna Lichtenegger, who is also the Chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, said the budget cut could impact jobs in the state.
“If the governor is really serious about bringing jobs back to Missouri, then this has to be a priority,” Lichtenegger said. “Higher education is the engine for workforce development and economic development.”
Lichtenegger also said the budget cut could cause the University of Missouri to lose its Association of American Universities membership. According to MU’s website, AAU member universities are also the main recipients of federal funding for research.
"If we lose our AAU status, we're gonna lose major donations,” Lichtenegger said. “It’s a catastrophe.”
Gov. Greitens’ budget will now be reviewed by House appropriation committees. The final draft should be ready by the end of the current legislative session in May.