The state legislature is in session in Helena and one of the many institutions lobbying for attention and funding is the higher education system. 

Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education Kevin McRae said the Montana Board of Regents, with cooperation from the legislature, has been able to hold higher education tuition down substantially over the last decade.

"In recent years, we have worked closely with the governor and the legislature on state funding of the university system," McRae said. "We have been able to hold the line substantially on the price of tuition at the two-year college level. For example, at the Missoula College, we have kept tuition prices level with no increases for almost a decade. In our four-year institutions we have been able to keep our tuition level as well. This has required an increase in state support, and that is again a top priority at the legislature. We need to receive enough state funding to continue holding the line in tuition prices."

Asked for specifics, McRae said the legislative budget process is just getting started in Helena.

"The analysis is under way by both the legislative and executive branches, but depending on the individual campus unit funding needs, we might be looking at approximately $20 million over the next two years for the educational units statewide," he said. "I'm hesitant to even quote that number, because the executive fiscal analyst anfd the legislative fiscal analyst are both sharpening their pencils."

McRae said the final budget for the university system won't really be known until the end of the session.

"Honestly, we're only in about day four or five right now," McRae said. "We probably won't have our final budget numbers in hand until day 89 or 90."

The legislature's 90 day session is scheduled to end on April 27.