Eric Greitens

East Central College may have to “tighten its belt” even further in the wake of Gov. Eric Greitens’ proposed budget released to the public Monday, Jan. 22.

The $28.7 billion budget proposal cuts $68 million, or roughly 10 percent, from the state’s higher education budget for four-year and two-year colleges.

“The budget we’re introducing today is a common-sense, conservative budget,” Greitens said during a press conference in his office.

ECC President Dr. Jon Bauer described the budget as disappointing and said it’s not the right way forward for Missouri.

“It’s discouraging news,” Bauer said. “The potential reduction is more significant than we first anticipated.”

Specific cuts to individual institutions haven’t been made available as of yet.

Last year, in Greitens’ first month in office, he made a $251 million cut to the state budget — $24 million of which came from the state’s higher education budget. Nine percent of ECC’s budget went with the cuts, reducing the college’s state aid by roughly $450,000.

Due to those cuts, the college made several cutbacks in its budget and raised tuition by $5 per credit hour across the board to avoid a deficit.

Providing quality education to students seeking it is becoming increasingly difficult as state aid dwindles, Bauer said.

The college has spent the last year targeting new students through dual enrollment opportunities and new online classes, giving the college a slight boost to its enrollment. But the college doesn’t expect for the number of dual enrollment students, a major part of that boost, to rise sharply again.

While ECC is always concerned about budgetary cutbacks, Bauer said a deeper concern he has is the effect those cuts may have on the economy of the state.

“We knew going into this year that it was likely to be a tight budget year,” he said. “I think it’s the wrong approach to penalize higher education, and what that really means is penalizing our students.”

Bauer said it’s important that he and his fellow higher education administrators spend time in the Capitol to get the budget to where it needs to be. He added that if the cuts can’t be lessened, more cuts to ECC could be imminent and the best way to deter that is by raising tuition, something he hopes to avoid.

“Dealing with a budget that has already been reduced makes it really, really challenging to do the work we have to do,” he said. “This is not the way to approach higher education.”