HELENA — The governor lauded the Montana Board of Regents for its move Friday to freeze college tuition for the next two years.
The regents unanimously voted in Great Falls on a plan to freeze college tuition for Montana residents at college campuses around the state.
Gov. Steve Bullock said he worked with the university leaders early in the budget process to negotiate the tuition freeze.
The Board of Regents has constitutional autonomy over the college system budget even though the Montana Legislature appropriates a large share of its funding. Bullock, like former Gov. Brian Schweitzer did on a couple of occasions, negotiated a tuition freeze with regents as part of the determination in how much state aid the college system would get.
"It was important to me that we reached an agreement early to make sure that tuition is frozen, because those tuition increases are essentially a tax on every working family in Montana," Bullock said Friday morning. "As governor, I want to make sure that higher education is accessible and affordable. So it is good to see that the freeze is implemented."
The regents approved one exception to the tuition freeze by agreeing to a tuition increase of about 2 percent each year at Miles City Community College that was requested locally.
Nonresident tuition will increase up to three percent each year at the state's colleges and universities under the plan approved Friday.
The Legislature approved more than $30 million in new state aid for the college system, along with more money for new buildings aimed at improving job training in the state and a pay raise for campus employees. Regents said the funding increase made the tuition freeze possible.
As part of the deal, regents agreed to a request from Republican legislative leaders to tie future funding to performance measures.
The regents also approved, with a 3-2 vote, fee increases of as much as 3 percent at the universities and as much as 9 percent at the two-year colleges.
That would result in a $23 increase in student fees next year and a $25 increase the year after at the main Montana State University campus. The increases at the University of Montana main campus would be about $30 each year.
College leaders told the regents that the small fee increases are necessary for the operations of the schools.