Higher ed cuts could cost universities millions




Special to The Telegram

The proposed budget cuts to higher education by the Kansas Legislature could cost Kansas universities and colleges millions in funding in fiscal year 2014.

The House proposed a 4 percent cut to state funding for higher education while the Senate proposed a 2 percent cut. Gov. Sam Brownback's budget proposal recommends that funding remain at the current level.

Bernadette Gray-Little, University of Kansas chancellor, said the proposed budget cuts would affect KU and its ability to meet its responsibilities as the state's flagship university.

In an open letter to KU faculty last week, she said the cuts would include more than $20 million in funding, which would force the elimination of 38 faculty positions and cut 10 percent of the KU Medical Center budget.

Gray-Little spelled out the areas that would be affected, saying the number of medical school students admitted each year would have to be reduced by 36 and the number of nursing students admitted each year would have to be reduced by 50 if the budget cuts were approved.

Kansas State University also would be affected by the proposed budget cuts.

Kirk H. Schulz, K-State president, said the university strongly supports the governor's budget recommendation for flat funding for higher education.

"I can't comment at this time on exactly what a 2 percent or 4 percent cut would do," Schulz said about the specific K-State programs would be impacted. "For us, this would mean that we would have to cut somewhere around $3 million to $6 million."

Schulz said Kansas State is aggressively seeking new funding sources and has had the three best years in school history in fundraising by garnering more than $100 million in private gifts.

State Rep. Russell Jennings, R- Lakin, said he voted against the House version of the budget bill mainly because of the proposed 4 percent cut on higher education. Jennings also said it would be nice to be able to put more money into public education, but since the Legislature did what it did last year with the tax bill, the state is cash starved.

"I think our community colleges, technical schools and universities have faced a number of challenges the last four or five years," Jennings said. "To cut them 4 percent just didn't make sense to me, and that is why I did not support the budget bill."

The Legislature will reconvene on May 8 to finish up the legislative session and continue working on the budget.

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