HELENA – One of the most significant portions of Governor Steve Bullock’s proposed budget had its first hearing Tuesday at the Legislature – the Montana State University System.
Proposals to make the system more accessible for all Montana students are at the forefront of the conversation.
Gov. Bullock is proposing a $24 million increase in state funding, over two years – in order to freeze college tuition. The proposal also includes another $5 million for financial aid to help students who might otherwise be unable to afford college.
Montana ranks 49th in the nation on a per-student basis when it comes to providing state-funded financial aid for its colleges.
Montana State University President Waded Cruzado told a legislative budget panel about a scholarship program MSU would like to expand – aimed at kids from working-class families.
It’s named after MSU graduate Maurice Hilleman who went on to develop vaccines that saves millions of lives. Cruzado said Hilleman had planned to be a store clerk in Miles City until a scholarship helped fund his education.
“But a scholarship changed all that. A scholarship changed his life. And that scholarship, I want to believe, was more than just dollars,” Cruzado said. “It was a signal that someone believed in his potential. With that little bit of help, this ordinary son of Montana went on to an extraordinary career that improved all of our lives.”
A House-Senate budget panel will vote later on the budget for the Montana State University System.