Associate Commissioner Says Legislature Treated Higher Education Well
The 65th session of the Montana Legislature officially adjourned last Friday, but various state agencies are still looking at the impacts of the session.
Associate Commissioner of Higher Education Kevin McRae said the legislature came through in a big way for higher education in a season where the cuts could have been catastrophic.
"We are pleased that the legislature put a tremendous investment into higher education in Montana," McRea said. "We knew that going into this session that there were some fiscal and financial budget challenges that reflect the state's revenue challenges. To boil it down, the campuses of the state university system will receive almost the amount of funding that they received in the last biennium, in that we're only looking at about a two percent reduction in total funding."
McRae said the Montana Board of Regents will be meeting in Great Falls on May 25 and 26, with a conference call scheduled for Thursday, May 4.
McRae said any decisions about tuition increases or budget cuts will be discussed at the regular meeting in Great Falls.
"When the Board of Regents meets later this month, they'll be finalizing their analysis of what the funding picture looks like, and will then be making some decisions on college and university tuition," he said. "They'll do everything they can to keep the tuition piece of the puzzle as affordable as possible, but will also target it towards continuing to provide excellent education at all of our colleges and universities."
McRae said the Board of Regents is working alongside the University of Montana as it offers early retirement incentives to some faculty members.
"The legislature has provided some funding to help the University of Montana reduce its personnel overhead, and we are working on a plan that would allow us to put some value options out there for faculty who are considering retiring, which would allow the university to preserve some sustainability for someone else, so we're looking at it as a real win-win scenario."
Before the legislature added back $11 million to the university system, double digit tuition increases, staff and program cuts were being anticipated.