Kansas colleges request budget hike of nearly $19 million

The Kansas Board of Regents next week will consider a general 2.6 percent increase in higher education funding, plus a number of targeted increases including funds for Kansas University for a new medical school building and the hiring of “foundation professors.”

The board is scheduled to discuss the postsecondary budget proposal on Wednesday and take action on it Thursday.

The recommended budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2012, will then be forwarded to Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget office for consideration. Brownback and the Legislature will work on a state spending plan when the legislative session starts in January.

The proposal before the regents would increase general higher education spending by 2.6 percent or $18.9 million.

This would cover inflation that is specific to higher education, which includes such things as professional and non-professional salaries, contracted services, and utility costs, according to a regents memo.

In addition, the plan also calls for a $2.2 million increase in need-based student financial assistance programs, which would return that assistance to 2009 levels.

The proposal also includes a $38.4 million increase requested for specific institutions or programs; $20 million of that would be to increase funding for technical education.

Brownback has said he wants to see the state place a greater emphasis on technical education in high schools and colleges.

Speaking to the regents last month at a retreat, Brownback said, “Too many companies are saying that your workforce is not really trained for our needs.”

KU’s request totals $9.9 million and includes a $5 million annual appropriation help build a new medical education building at the School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kan.

Brownback has also spoken of the need to increase the ranking of the KU medical school.

The proposed building would cost approximately $78 million and allow KU to increase its medical school by 50 students. The current facility, which opened in 1976, is “severely outdated,” the regents memo states, because it was designed for lectures instead of the modern curriculum, which emphasizes small groups.

The $5 million annual appropriation would cover debt to retire bonds on the project.

KU also is asking for a $3 million annual appropriation to hire “foundation professors” who would have international status and play a major role in research efforts and maintaining KU’s membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities.

And KU is requesting $1.9 million for additional funding for its medical loan program, which provides tuition, fees and a monthly stipend for medical students. The loans can be repaid by practicing in an under-served county in Kansas.

By Scott Rothschild

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