JEFFERSON CITY – Presidents and fiscal officers from Missouri's two- and four-year colleges warned lawmakers that any more higher education cuts in the state budget could result in more layoffs, program eliminations, deferred maintenance and tuition hikes.

University of Missouri System President Mun Choi spoke before a House education appropriations committee Wednesday, the Columbia Missourian reported.

Choi said the system will continue focusing on improving student success and research but budget cuts will hinder those goals.

"We have been focused on achieving our objectives by becoming more efficient," he said. "But when we look at the opportunities that are available for us to make cuts, we feel that we've made dramatic cuts and that further cuts would be very damaging to our core operation."

The university system released a report last week recommending dozens of academic programs be eliminated, reviewed or combined. Choi said more cuts will lead to larger class sizes, higher student-to-faculty ratios, lower graduation rates, faculty layoffs and a wave of students leaving the state.

"The current situation of having essentially an $80 million cut to our budget over the past two years presents a situation that is very dire for all of us," he said.

Wednesday's hearing was a continuation from Tuesday, when officials from universities including Missouri State, Missouri Western and Northwest Missouri testified how budget cuts have strapped them in recent years. The schools' leaders said they'd need to increase tuition and fees to offset further cuts. They also said they want the opportunity to raise tuition beyond the consumer price index, which is currently against state law.

Missouri lawmakers are considering raising the tuition cap.