Cuts at the Office of Commissioner of Higher Education are not detailed yet, but would likely result in significant hikes in tuition rates for the second year in a row.
The state university system may only be reduced by the average reduction in other executive agencies, which is 9.57 percent. That will require the agency to make nearly $43 million in cuts over the next two years. About $35 million in cuts would come from campus funding for Montana State University, the University of Montana and all affiliated campuses. The remainder would come from research and service programs such as MSU Extension, community college assistance, work study funding and Montana University System scholarships and tribal college assistance.
A spokesperson for the department said the agency hasn’t determined how to make reductions but plans to make final budget recommendations to the Board of Regents in late November. Both Commissioner Clayton Christian and Deputy Commissioner Tyler Trevor previously said any reductions would likely require universities to increase tuition.
“The Board of Regents might opt to consider a tuition increase next year to lessen the need for cuts to education and related services,” Kevin McRae, a spokesman for the agency, said in an email.
Students have already felt the impact of budget cuts after the Montana University System was left with an $18.8 million gap by the Legislature this session.
At the University of Montana, where enrollment is down 24 percent since 2011, resident undergraduate students saw an average increase in tuition of 8.5 percent and nonresident undergraduate tuition went up 3.2 percent. Students who received the Western Undergraduate Exchange, a merit-based partnership to reduce tuition for students in neighboring states, went up by 9.3 percent.
At Montana State University, where enrollment has increased for 10 years, enrollment for resident undergraduates went up 2.3 percent and nonresident undergraduates saw an increase of 3.7 percent. Western Undergraduate Exchange students pay 2.4 percent more than they did last year.
Several of the affiliated campuses experienced skyrocketing tuition. MSU Northern undergraduate residents pay 13 percent more and WUE saw an increase of 11.1 percent. At UM Western, undergraduate residents pay 14.5 percent more and WUE students pay 15.7 percent more.