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Higher education cuts less than governor's proposal

Higher education cuts less than governor's proposal

May 7th, 2017 by Bob Watson in Local News

Lincoln University welcomed new freshmen and their parents Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016 during Freshman Move-in Day on the Lincoln University campus.

Photo by Matt McCormack /News Tribune.

The state budget which Missouri lawmakers sent Gov. Eric Greitens last week gives Lincoln University and State Technical College more money than the governor proposed in February.

In the final budget the House and Senate agreed on, lawmakers approved the House-passed funding levels for the state's colleges and universities, rather than the Senate's lower amounts.

In Lincoln's case, the $20,532,513 lawmakers appropriated for the state business year that starts July 1 also is more than LU received in the current budget year — before Govs. Jay Nixon and Greitens withheld money because of state budget issues.

Part of the increase is the $2.5 million lawmakers added to Lincoln's budget to be the state's match for LU's federal funding under the 1890 land grant program.

That same amount was put into the current 2016-17 business year's budget — but Nixon withheld $1.5 million last July.

And Greitens withheld another $80,837 in January, in addition to freezing $1,340,758 from the school's core funding.

In previous years, LU President Kevin Rome has preferred to wait until after the governor acted on the budget before commenting — and he, again, didn't comment on the situation after the Senate passed the final version of the 2017-18 budget late Thursday.

State Tech, Missouri's two-year technical college with a statewide mission, will get $5,707,566 if Greitens approves the funding plan.

But, while that is $184,346 more than Greitens recommended in his budget proposal submitted to lawmakers in February, it's $150,405 less than State Tech received in the current budget the Legislature approved a year ago.

"We understand the Legislature has to balance the budget," State Tech President Shawn Strong told the News Tribune last week. "It is disappointing when our funding is reduced while at the same time costs, such as retirement and health insurance, keep increasing.

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"We are committed to being good stewards of the taxpayers' money, keeping costs down, and are grateful for the state support we receive."

Strong said there's "no way to sugar coat that this cut."

When combined with the school's rising costs, he said, the 2017-18 budget year will be difficult.

Strong said: "We will continue to make the case for State Tech as the best workforce development investment in Missouri, while continuing to look for growth opportunities."

Greitens still must sign the budget, and the Missouri Constitution gives him the authority — only in budget bills — to veto individual line items.

Or, as has been done in the past, the governor could sign the appropriations measures, then withhold funding.

Missouri has 13 four-year college and university campuses.

Several of them receive money for programs that Greitens didn't include in his budget proposal, including:

Harris-Stowe State University, St. Louis, $250,000 for graduate and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.

The Senate had placed $1 million in the budget after the House and governor had put nothing in the budget for the program.

Missouri Southern State University, Joplin, $3 million for a dentistry program, in cooperation with the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The agreed-on level was the Senate's version, $2 million higher than the House had proposed.

Missouri State University, Springfield, $1 million for a pharmacy program, also in cooperation with UMKC.

University of Missouri-Columbia, $5 million for increasing medical student class size and creating a Springfield clinic campus in a public-private partnership with two hospitals.