Gene Budig knows his 10th year as chancellor of Kansas University, the state's largest higher education institution, isn't going to be easy.
One question central to KU's immediate future has dominated Budig's thoughts: Can the state of Kansas properly finance the university?
"By any reasonable measure, Kansas is not poor," said Budig, answering his own question. "The state of Kansas can afford to fund quality at KU."
"The state has the human and natural resources to strengthen its flagship university. The question is whether the state has the will."
This has been a tough year for higher education across the country, he said. Most state legislatures, including the Kansas Legislature, imposed either no-growth or reduced budgets for their colleges and universities.
"It appears, however, that the recession's impact has been less severe here than in many other states," Budig said. "(But) one has to wonder whether Kansas will do its part in the years ahead to provide basic support" for KU.
He said he wasn't concerned that publicity about KU's budget problems would turn potential students away.
"Where would they go?" he said, noting that surrounding states are also struggling.
IF THE Kansas Legislature and Gov. Joan Finney do their part to fund KU in the years ahead, he said, KU has "unlimited potiential for good."
"Political leaders from both parties have assured me over the summer that brighter days do lie ahead for higher education in Kansas," he said.
Budig, 52, is responsible for about 29,000 students and 10,000 faculty and staff at KU's Lawrence campus and medical center facilities in Wichita and Kansas City, Kan.
Budig said KU despite limited state resources remains "a unique and prized asset for the entire Midwest" and is a "sterling academic community."
Under his tutelage, KU has raised more than $210 million through Campaign Kansas, the largest fund drive in school history, made $275 million in building improvements, raised research grant support to $65 million a year, increased support for scholarships and fellowships by 80 percent and doubled the number of distinguished professorships to 135.
Budig said there is ample evidence of KU's academic standing from outside observers.
THE 1992 Fiske Guide to Colleges ranks KU seventh academically among public universities and first in the Big Eight.
In the guide, KU received four out of a possible five points in academics, quality of life on campus and in the community, and for quality of social life for students.
In the last academic year, the KU School of Medicine was highly rated by U.S. News and World Report. In addition, KU was 15th in enrollment of freshmen National Merit scholars among state universities and 18th in the size of its libraries, with three million volumes.
"And we have a highly competitive athletics program: A national championship and two additional appearances in basketball's Final Four in just six years is a major achievement," Budig said.
"Yet what is truly special about our program is that, in all sports, it emphasizes individual worth and scholastic performance."
TO FOSTER excellence, KU has turned increasingly to its 200,000 alumni and students to finance university operations.
"Private support will have helped immeasurably to position KU for the challenges of the 1990s and the 21st century," he said.
Campaign Kansas officials expect to raise about $220 million through the fund drive and Budig said, "The real winners from Campaign Kansas will be the faculty and students of the university."
Budig said the university's priorities remain better salaries for campus employees and additional funding for the university's operating budget.
Other goals are enhancement of undergraduate teaching and diversification of the student body and faculty, he said.
Although Budig says KU remains a bargain for students, they will be paying more for their education.
And he's concerned about the rising cost of higher education.
Members of the Legislature have criticized the "low" tuition rates set by the Board of Regents, which oversees KU and the other state universities.
In response to the criticism, regents approved a tuition hike of 8 percent this fall and 10 percent next year for Kansas residents attending KU.
"In recent months, most other states have increased student tuition and fees significantly," Budig said. "Kansas has also, although not as significantly."
However, the tuition increases put more pressure on KU to raise money for scholarships, he said.
"The future of the state will be stunted if we price our young out of the education market," he said.