College tuition hikes possible in budget crunch - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

College tuition hikes possible in budget crunch

Posted by Max Reiss – bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – The third and final day of preliminary state budget hearings ended Thursday at the Alabama State House.

Lawmakers heard from several of the state's education agency heads as they made presentations and at some points, pleas, for their funding not to be cut for the upcoming fiscal year.

"We're going to try to work through this carefully" said Rep. Jay Love (R – Montgomery) the chairman of the Education Trust Fund Committee in the House of Representatives.

In addition to cuts to K through 12 there is no doubt according to budget experts that Alabama's four year colleges and universities will feel the pinch as well. Tuition hikes are possible to help keep them going.

Love said, "I think that is a reality for next year I think that we'll be looking at tuition increases. I hope they'll be as small as possible that is the reality.

At the Council of four year college presidents meeting, they briefly discussed the notion of increasing tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students.

"I think it's premature to say that (they're inevitable)," said Dr. Carol Garrison, President of the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB).

"I know that every institution, every board looks at that issue very seriously. Tries to keep tuition as low as possible but there is a direct relationship between the amount of state funding that is available and the kinds of tuition increases that I think you'll see" Garrison said.

Higher education was not the only issue that came before lawmakers at the budget hearing.

Dr. Joe Morton, the State's Superintendent of the Department of Education who oversees Alabama's public school system gave an impassioned presentation.

He talked about the strides Alabama has made to improve its national standing in public schools.

"The best overall ranking we've ever had in the history of the state of Alabama today in public education" Morton said.

"I know nobody in this room and nobody in the legislature wants to lose that. We don't want to get up to 25th and then slip back to 49th."

The state's Education Trust Fund faces a $126 million shortfall for 2012 and it could swell to a nearly $300 million shortfall in 2013 when Federal Stimulus funds expire.

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