Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Leaders of Missouri’s public community colleges and universities said Monday that they’ll freeze undergraduate tuition next school year as part of a deal with Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to ramp up funding from the state.

Nixon is recommending a $55.7 million increase in performance funding next fiscal year, which would bring total state higher education funding to $985 million. That would be a 6 percent increase, and budget officials said that would be the most ever budgeted for higher education.

State funding for public colleges and universities reached a high of $968 million in fiscal year 2002, before a series of cuts.

“This significant investment would enable Missouri’s community colleges to freeze tuition next year and to continue delivering the quality, affordable education our students need and deserve,” said St. Charles Community College President Ron Chesbrough, who is chairman of a Missouri Community College Association council of presidents and chancellors. Chesbrough and the head of a public university council touted the agreement during an announcement outside the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City.

The proposal requires legislative approval, but Nixon said he’s “extremely optimistic” lawmakers will approve the plan during the session that starts in January. Requests for comment from the Republican House and Senate leaders were not immediately returned Monday.

“I feel very, very deeply that we have got to prepare our students for jobs of the future,” Nixon said. “I’m confident that this is the right priority to have, and I’m looking forward to working to get it passed.”

College boards also would need to approve the tuition freezes endorsed by college and university presidents.

Performance funding is awarded based on student retention, graduation rates and other measures.

Higher education leaders also agreed to set aside more than $9 million of the proposed $55.7 million increase for science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.

(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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