UM Protest Against Higher Tuition, Legislator Explains Budget Issue
Around 200 Students, faculty, and concerned community members were out near the University of Montana Oval on Tuesday, protesting an expected increase in tuition. Student Hannah Gale was out early setting up tents and preparing for the day with other groups.
“We have campus groups like MontPirg, ReInvest, the IWW student groups, Students for Peace and Justice, College Dems,” Gale said. “For the community we have the Montana Wilderness Associations, 350 Montana and Forward Montana… and I’m sure there’s a bunch more I’m forgetting”
Gale explains why the groups were gathered.
“They’re out here for education, to get the word out about the things they are working on as well as supporting us with our endeavors: to fund education and just mobilize people and bring out people that might not be here otherwise, were just looking for student voice, these are policies that will be affecting us directly, so we’re just trying to bring attention to the issue.”
The budget for the Montana University System is appropriated by the state legislature in Helena, where Montana Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas explained how a decrease in natural resource revenue was weighing on budgeting decisions across the board.
“We’ve hit a flat spot in revenue for the last two to three years,” said Thomas. “With revenue down, we’ve had to reduce expenditures or keep them flat. With the University System we were able to reduce the increase anticipated on tuition from a double digit number to about 9.7 percent, we’re not happy that it’s going up 9.7 percent, but it’s less than where it was a couple months ago.”
When compared to the budget passed last biennium, Thomas says the current proposed budget has an overall decrease to the Montana University system of 0.62 percent.
Though the state legislature appropriates money to the Montana University System, the regents will have the final say on how to deal with a tightened budget, and whether costs are paid for by increased tuition, a reduction in services, or a combination of the two.