Student leaders seek higher education funding commitment from candidates

Student leaders at Kansas University and the other five regents schools are seeking answers from the major political party candidates for governor on their commitment to higher education. In a letter sent to Republican Sam Brownback and Democrat Tom Holland, the students have asked whether the candidates will publicly support the $50 million "Kansas Commitment" that was recently approved by the Kansas Board of Regents.

"The `Kansas Commitment' is a much-needed and vitally important step towards reinvesting in our higher education system," said the letter sent by Michael Wade Smith, the KU student leader and his five colleagues representing Kansas State, Wichita State, Emporia State, Fort Hays State and Pittsburg State.

The plan would provide $20.5 million to cover inflation over the past three years, restore $15.75 million that had been cut from maintenance and repairs of buildings, and allocate $14.15 million targeted at increasing graduates in high-demand fields. The plan also supports starting a $10 million student financial aid program that would be funded through recouping state sales taxes on purchases made on campuses, and athletic department funds.

The student leaders said the plan is needed to start to offset record budget cuts of more than $100 million in state funding to higher education over the past two years.

"Investment in higher education can provide real and tangible results in strengthening our economy," the student leaders said. "Increasing the number of skilled graduates in high demand fields and increasing opportunities for lower and middle income students to attend college will undoubtedly produce tremendous results for the entire state."

The Journal-World has requested responses from Brownback and Holland and will update this story when they respond.

By Scott Rothschild

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