Archive for Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kansas: Higher education cuts unlikely to be restored

January 15, 2014

— Restoring budget cuts to higher education that were approved last year by Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders appears iffy at this point.

"I don't know if that is going to be possible or not," said Kansas Board of Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Andy Tompkins. But, Tompkins said, "Hope springs eternal with me."

Tompkins and leaders of the six regents universities were summoned to meet Tuesday with Brownback one day before the governor outlines his priorities in the State of the State address.

After the 45-minute private meeting, Tompkins and Kansas University Provost Jeffrey Vitter declined to say what Brownback will unveil.

Vitter said Brownback expressed his support of the universities. "He's traditionally a strong supporter and wants us to succeed," Vitter said.

Vitter said Brownback briefed higher education officials on the process he went through in planning his budget.

"He gave us a rationale for why he is putting forward what he did, and in terms of what would be the way of getting the most support for these measures," Vitter said. "He's very practical as well as supportive."

At KU, the budget cuts enacted last year amounted to $13.5 million.

The regents and universities have made restoration of budget cuts their top priority this session.

But House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said he believes universities have room to cut administrative expenses.

Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said she didn't think higher education would be cut more, but added, "I think that would be difficult to have full restoration of funds."

Wagle said she believed Brownback would propose budget enhancements in targeted areas. "We will look very closely at whatever the governor recommends," she said.

KU also is seeking funding to build a new health education building in Kansas City, Kan., and expand the KU School of Medicine-Wichita program.


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