Montana University System asks Legislature for tuition freeze, pay raises, buildings

2013-01-06T06:30:00Z 2014-10-03T14:28:21Z Montana University System asks Legislature for tuition freeze, pay raises, buildingsBy MARTIN KIDSTON of the Missoulian missoulian.com
January 06, 2013 6:30 am  • 

The Montana University System has identified its list of priorities heading into the 2013 legislative session, where it will look to secure millions in funding to maintain the state’s standard of higher education while meeting the demands of growth.

Education officials will look for funding to cover inflationary costs over the next two fiscal years, and funding to cover an increase in employee pay. If both measures are approved, it would allow the state to freeze tuition through 2015.

Kevin McRae, associate commissioner with the Officer of the Commissioner of Higher Education, said the MUS will also look for legislative approval to fund several building projects in Missoula, Billings, Havre and Bozeman.

The projects include a new Missoula College and a science building at Montana State University-Billings. All the projects have been approved by the Montana Board of Regents and are included in the long-range building plan.

“The Missoula College project is the top priority for the board in our long-range plan,” McRae said. “There are a number of projects that have been identified in the governor’s budget.”

House Bill 14, introduced by Rep. Galen Hollenbaugh, D-Helena, seeks $87.9 million in appropriations and $87.9 million in general obligation bonds to complete eight long-range building projects, seven of which pertain to the MUS.

The bill also allows the state to seek $57.8 million in other funding sources, such as donations, grants and general fund money accrued by an agency. Those funds would be used to complete nine building projects, eight of which pertain to the MUS.

“We believe that when the information is shared and reviewed, it will be clear that the needs and capacity of certain buildings isn’t currently conducive to teaching and learning,” said McRae. “Legislators have generally recognized that.”

***

Under the University of Montana, the funding requests include $47 million for Missoula College, $2.5 million for an athlete academic center, and $9.3 million for the Gilkey Executive Education Center – all planned for Missoula.

UM-Western is seeking $4.5 million for renovation to Main Hall, and $10 million is needed for an addition to the natural resources research center at Montana Tech of UM.

Under Montana State University, the requests include $20 million for renovations to Romney Hall and $25 million for Jabs Hall. MSU-Billings is seeking $15 million for an addition to the science and instructional tech building, while MSU-Northern is seeking $7.9 million for an automotive technology center.

The only project on the list not relevant to the university system is a $28.5 million request for the Montana Heritage Center in Helena.

All project requests would be funded through a combination of appropriations, bonding and other sources.

***

While the building projects are high on the list, education officials are looking to freeze tuition through 2015. But in order to do that, McRae said, the Legislature will need to appropriate funding to cover both inflationary costs and wage increases.

“We’re sensing that it is, and should be, a bipartisan interest to keep college tuition affordable and level,” McRae said. “If there are state resources to invest toward that need, we feel it’s in the common and bipartisan interest of Montana to do so.”

In fiscal year 2012, the MUS received $179.6 million in appropriations from the state general fund. The current budget proposal calls for $195.9 million in FY 2014 and $197.3 million in FY 2015.

Known as a present law budget adjustment, McRae said the increase would cover inflationary factors like heating, lighting and library services – the largest inflationary needs within the MUS.

“There’s a proposed increase of $34 million over the next two fiscal years,” McRae said. “It’s an inflationary adjustment that would allow us to continue present level services.”

In order to freeze tuition at current levels, McRae said, the Legislature must fund wage increases for state employees. If funding for both pay and inflationary expenses are met, the college affordability plan would go into effect.

“If we can get present law adjustment to cover inflationary costs, and if the Legislature passes a state employee pay plan – and if there’s an appropriations to fund those raises – the board would be able to commit to not raising student tuition for two years,” McRae said.

Also on the list of higher education needs is a funding request to expand an MSU program allowing students to earn a medical degree at the University of Washington.

Officials will ask the Legislature to fund additional slots in the program.

A similar program in veterinary medicine at MSU, arranged in conjunction with Washington State University, also needs funding to begin accepting students.

“There’s a shortage of vets in eastern Montana serving the communities, especially large animal and livestock needs,” McRae said. “We’re exploring a WSU cooperative in veterinary medicine.”

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. Got concrete
    Report Abuse
    Got concrete - January 06, 2013 7:36 pm
    Faculty might see 10%, staff, not so much. More like 1-2% every three years for say 3 to 6 years, then another wage freeze. The U M has been freezing or trying to freeze tuition for all the 13 years I'm familiar with. But with the recent scandals that apparently don't matter any more to administration or local law enforcement, they need to make this slum attractive somehow. The news has spread far and wide and nobody in their right mind would send their daughter here! There was NO overflow in Aber and Jesse Halls this year. And that, my friend is unprecedented!

    The state employee union will negotiate first, get their wage increases and U M staff will scrape up whatever is left. MPEA is doing them NO FAVORS.
  2. Gulick
    Report Abuse
    Gulick - January 06, 2013 7:32 pm
    If we play our cards right, the university system can be as mediocre as the legislature.
  3. Got concrete
    Report Abuse
    Got concrete - January 06, 2013 7:10 pm
    My negotiations with the Board of Regents weren't quite what your perception appears to be. They work directly with the Governor's office and getting money from them is like pulling teeth.
  4. Got concrete
    Report Abuse
    Got concrete - January 06, 2013 7:03 pm
    But that would divert funds from the athletic programs! What are you thinking?!
  5. gunner2
    Report Abuse
    gunner2 - January 06, 2013 3:12 pm
    Defined Benefit ponzi scheme is the reason these union pension funds are so underfunded. Governor-elect wants to proceed with Schweitzer's plan to give State employees a 10% raise over the next 2 years. They should contribute more to their own underfunded retirement plan instead of expecting taxpayers to cover the shortages. If they are short - they are obviously not contributing enough.
  6. jima
    Report Abuse
    jima - January 06, 2013 1:54 pm
    What about the severely underfunded (and technically insolvent)state pension plans. Is there an extra billion or two laying around for that fiscal nightmare? Maybe we'll just cover that with some 'back door' federal appropriations...or just ignore it. And since when does 'library services' qualify as one of the largest 'inflationary needs' within the MUS. This is accounting gimmickry taken to new heights! Hey, maybe if reclassify pay raises as pre-construction cost overruns...
  7. Deadwolf
    Report Abuse
    Deadwolf - January 06, 2013 1:50 pm
    Once again, the Board of Regents says....gimme more and when the legislature does, they say gimme more again. They could never get enough even if they took 100% of the property taxes. Time to cut them off..big time!
  8. loveymama
    Report Abuse
    loveymama - January 06, 2013 12:04 pm
    As a graduate of the social work program in 2005, I am wondering why Jeanette rankin Hall isn't being renovated? Have any of the Members of the Board of Regents even BEEN in that building?? It has not changed since 1890!!
  9. gunner2
    Report Abuse
    gunner2 - January 06, 2013 11:07 am
    Freeze revenue and increase expenses - brilliant. These people should work in Washington DC. Taxpayers take it in the shorts again.
Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's headlines in ab…

Sidney tornado

Sidney tornado

Dexter Jensen shot this video of a tornado that touched down Tuesday near Sidney.

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's h…

Richard Sullivan reads a statement at his sentencing.

Richard Sullivan reads a statement at his sentencing.

Sullivan gives a statement at his sentencing.

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's …

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Rob Chaney presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's …

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's h…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's h…

loading...

Search our events calendar