Tuition for University of Montana students could skyrocket by up to 23 percent, should budget projections hold true for the University system from the state legislature.

Associate Commissioner of Higher Education, Kevin McRae. said like all state agencies, the university system is facing a budget challenge.

"As of today, the university system's budget is looking at about a $23 million hole for the next two years," McRae said. "If the budget were to pass today, the system would have a $23 million reduction, which would create a lot of pressure to continue current levels of educational services."

McRae outlined two possible scenarios if the budget picture fails to improve.

"The bottom line is this," he said. "If resident tuition payers were to fill that hole themselves, they would be facing a possible tuition increase of about 23 percent this year, with another increase of an indeterminable amount in the following year. In the second scenario, if we didn't make up the $23 million in tuition, we would have to be looking at making $23 million in cuts to educational programs which would significantly reduce the opportunities for students. Or, we could be looking at a possible combination of the two options."

McRae said legislators will be working hard to restore as much of the $23 million as possible.