Missouri budget leader pitches college tuition, funding deal

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s House budget leader on Wednesday said he’s trying to work out a deal to avoid Gov. Eric Greitens’ proposed cuts to higher education funding, if schools don’t raise tuition.

Republican Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick’s latest state spending plan, unveiled during a hearing at the Capitol, includes $38 million more for public colleges and universities next year than what the governor recommended. That would erase some, but not all, of the cuts Greitens requested.

The governor’s budget plan for the fiscal year beginning in July would give colleges and universities $92 million less than originally budgeted for the current fiscal year. That would mean $68 million less than they actually are expected to get based on cuts Greitens previously made to the 2018 budget.

Fitzpatrick said he’ll give the full $68 million to public colleges and universities if they reach a deal and agree not to raise tuition for in-state undergraduates. Otherwise, he said he’ll set aside $30 million of that money for need-based scholarships.

“I want to make sure that if we’re putting that money back, it’s going to result in holding down the cost of college for Missouri students,” he said.

Spokesman Christian Basi said the four-campus University of Missouri System is “very grateful” for support from lawmakers and said Wednesday’s action shows they’re “very aware of the value of public higher education.”

“We’re looking forward to continue working with them to make sure that public higher education is accessible to anyone who wants to further their education and meet their career goals,” he said.

Fitzpatrick’s plan also includes $48 million more than the governor’s request for preschool education programs. The move would fulfill promises made by lawmakers in 2014, when they passed a law to boost early education funding if they meet funding goals for K-12 schools.

Greitens didn’t include funding for the preschool program in his original budget recommendation.

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