Advertisement

Archive for Tuesday, February 20, 1990

LAWMAKERS HEAR STUDENT CONCERNS

February 20, 1990

Advertisement

— It probably occurred to studious Kansas legislators and Gov. Mike Hayden that Monday wasn't the best day of the session to make a fiery speech in the state Capitol in favor of a tuition increase at Kansas Board of Regents universities.

Roaming the halls and linking hands briefly around the Statehouse were 275 students participating in the Associated Students of Kansas Lobby Day.

The students, including about 135 from Kansas University, had an opportunity to hear Hayden's views on higher education. ASK also unveiled its list of legislative goals. And groups of KU students pressed the flesh privately with members of the Lawrence legislative delegation.

During a meeting between Hayden and ASK members, the governor commended the students for coming to Topeka in an effort to learn more about government and to join in the political process. The state has treated higher education well the last two years, he said.

"THE SITUATION is a little different today," Hayden said. "State government is spending considerably more than it is taking in. You know that kind of spending can't be sustained for the long term. And it is not likely a major tax increase will be approved by the Legislature."

However, Hayden announced he would sign legislation passed by the Senate that raises $12 million a year for regents universities by increasing by five cents the state tax on a pack of cigarettes and by 5 percent the tax on other tobacco products.

"I wouldn't make any predictions about whether the House will follow suit (and approve the Senate bill)," Hayden said. "It's too early to tell. I would say that if a cigarette tax gets to my desk to fund higher education, I will sign that bill."

Lobby Day began two years ago when ASK, which represents students at regents' universities, helped push for the Margin of Excellence. Tuition receipts, hospital revenue and state general fund money were used to give faculty special raises the past two years under the Margin program.

HAYDEN recommended this session that legislators not finance the third and final year of the Margin of Excellence, which costs $16.3 million. In lieu of the Margin, he proposed allocating $400,000 for meritorious faculty bonuses.

"We're still going to support funding of the Margin of Excellence," said Sherri Sweers, director of KU's chapter of ASK. "But we're also aware of the state's poor financial condition. We came here to state the concerns of students and show we care."

The top ASK priorities are an increase in student salaries for campus jobs and a raise in the graduate teaching assistant fee waiver, she said. A Senate committee has decided not to support raises in those areas in Fiscal Year 1991, which covers next school year.

The universities need an additional $1.2 million this year to offset the increase in the federal minimum wage that goes into effect in April, ASK leaders said. Without extra funding, universities will have to cut student hours or positions or pay a subminimum wage.

GRADUATE tuition has increased more rapidly than undergraduate tuition at regents universities, and many students depend on fee waivers received for teaching to attend college. Hayden recommended an increase in the waiver from 75 to 80 percent. ASK wants a 100 percent waiver.

A dozen ASK members met briefly with Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence. He said their lobbying gave legislators tangible evidence that students appreciate the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year on higher education in Kansas.

Winter said lawmakers like to see students aggressively advance an agenda that would lead to improvements in the quality of education, but they don't want to be confronted with demands that ignore other critical priorities, such as social programs.

"YOU'RE DOING a good job," the senator said. "You may get a little discouraged. But let me tell you, it's very important for you to be here. It's a 90-day session. Hopefully, it will all come out right. Really it isn't over until it's over."

In response to a question, Winter said he supports a House bill that imposes restricted admissions at state universities. First, he said, the legislation sets up a flexible system that helps weed out most students in need of remedial instruction.

And second, he said, the state cannot afford to pay for educational excellence and support huge student populations at the same time. It is bad policy to admit all Kansans with a high school degree to the regents institution of their choice, he said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.