Mar 8, 2013 7:00 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - The Montana Legislature is moving forward with plans to freeze tuition for college students.
The House Budget Committee began debate Friday on the Montana University System's budget, looking at a proposal that spends just over $550 million in federal and state money for the next two-year budget cycle.
This level of funding will allow all Montana colleges and universities to keep tuition at their current levels, and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian told lawmakers overall he is pleased with the budget so far.
"I think all of you wouldn't be part of this body today if you didn't have some appreciation for higher education and the impact that it has on students and families, the state and the state's economy in Montana," Christian told the committee. "We appreciate the difficult task that is ahead of you."
Christian is asking the House Appropriations Committee for a few more items that didn't make it into the first draft of the budget.
The University System wants an additional $1 million for a workforce development program which would provide training for workers looking for jobs in the Bakken.
They are also asking for an additional $5 million to complete the universal enrollment program which would allow students to take courses from more than one Montana college.
Educators are seeking $2 million for a veterans workforce training program and $360,000 to expand the state's medical residency program.
The committee will vote on these additional items on Monday with the hopes of sending the budget to the full House sometime next week.