KCUR News
1:54 am
Thu December 11, 2008

Missouri University System Braces For Deep Cuts

Springfield, MO – With the state facing a potential 342 million dollar budget shortfall, lawmakers have asked public universities and colleges to submit reports on how they might make significant budget cuts.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education has sent an e-mail requesting all state universities and colleges to create budget cutting scenarios by December 18th. Schools must outline how they might cut their core budgets by 15, 20, and 25 percent for the next fiscal year.

Nila Hayes is the chief financial officer at Missouri State University. She says MSU's President Michael Nietzel is looking at various ways to make potential budget cuts, but has yet to reach a decision on where the cuts might fall. In a campus wide e-mail sent Friday, Nietzel asked university staff to scale back on projects and travel expenses that are not seen as absolutely necessary.

Paul Wagner, deputy commissioner for the Missouri Department of Higher Education, says there is definitely going to be some sort of double digit budget cut for Missouri's public colleges and universities, but the exact number is still unpredictable: "There's some institutions who say, we could eliminate all of the scholarships we give to students and that wouldn't be enough.' Others say we could eliminate an entire college or several academic programs and it wouldn't be enough.' It's definitely going to have a major impact on the institutions if it takes place."

Wagner says the Department of Higher Education Commission plans to put forth a few other options during its next meeting with the Missouri General Assembly. He adds, "It just seems like cutting higher education at a time when more and more students are struggling to pay the cost as it is. And more and more people are turning to higher education institutions in order to upgrade their training, learn new skills and find a better job. Cutting your investment in higher education in that atmosphere in that aspect is really counterproductive."

Wagner says the percentage that the government ultimately requires state colleges to cut will depend on how well the economy does within the next six to nine months.