Higher Education Squeezed in Missouri as State Budget Revenue Falls

The state of Missouri did not receive as much revenue as it had expected last year, which has forced newly-minted governor (barely a week in at the time) to make tough decisions about the budget of the Show Me State. As such, Eric Greitens (Rep) cut out more than $68 million core funding for universities, colleges, and community colleges for this budgetary year. This cut amounts to roughly 8 percent of the state’s general revenue that would normally go to colleges and community colleges.

And he further proposes more cuts in the budget next year; to take effect in July.

He attests, “Universities, college professors, administrators are going to get less money than the politicians had promised them in the past. And that is one of the places where we’re going to have to ask them to tighten their belts so we can fund our priorities.”

Unfortunately, Greiten is not the only US governor who has had to make recent cuts to higher education funding in order to address budgetary obstacles. As a matter of fact, 24 states have released reports—via the National Association of State Budget Officers—showing that current revenues are weaker than they had expected.
It is important to remember that higher education does not have a singularly committed source of funding. Because of that, colleges and universities tend to take quite the budgetary hit when states need to make cuts. As a matter of fact, Dustin Weeden of the National Conference of State Legislatures comments, “Higher education is called the balance wheel of state budgets.”

Weeden goes on to say, “It’s a large discretionary area where states can reduce in bad times, but then in general they also tend to come back and increase higher ed budget categories when good times return. The challenge has been with the most recent recession — is that the recoveries have been slower and much more sluggish and taken longer to get the tax revenue back up to pre-recession levels.”

In this case, the state of Missouri is not able to legally raise most of its taxes without a ballot measure. Missouri budget committee chairman, state Rep Scott Fitzpatrick notes that Greiten did not really have any other options in terms of this year’s budget.

He advises: “If I had to do it, I would have probably done it the same way as far as, where do I target the majority of the cuts. I mean, it’s a difficult decision, but he probably made the right one.”

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