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Proposed budget cuts could mean tuition increase, program cuts

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MISSOULA, Mont. - The Associated Students of the University of Montana and MontPIRG joined forces to host a rally against a proposed $11.8 million worth of cuts to the Montana University System.

More than 150 students gathered at the UM Oval to protest.

ASUM Senator Brenna Love says she wants to make sure the protesters' voices are heard.

"For us to come together today and to say that this really means something to us, that is the kind of message we need to send to our representatives," Love said.

ASUM officials say with enrollment down and the cost of education up they fear it could mean program cuts and tuition increases at universities statewide.

Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education Kevin McRae says tuition could rise.

"In May some college and universities will likely see an increase of tuition," McRae said.

Here are some key points about the cuts:

-- Tax revenue is down

-- State agencies ordered to cut a 5 percent across-the-board rollback

-- The first proposed cuts totaled more than $23 million

-- The House eventually gave back $11.5 million

For more information on the proposed cuts, click here.

Missoula resident Joe Sariva says the university education system can't lose any money.

"Schooling is one of the most important things," Sariva said. "If our kids aren't educated we're not going to go anywhere."

ASUM officials say they worry staff cuts and tuition hikes would affect student debt and the quality of education.

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