There isn't much debate about Kansas University being the outstanding comprehensive research university in the Big Eight Conference. In fact, KU is one of the nation's finest state-aided comprehensive research institutions.
There may be some particualr department at another Big Eight school that is superior to the same department at KU on Mount Oread or at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., but overall, the excellence of KU is recognized by numerous independent, knowledgeable observers.
KU's library facilities are tops, the Medical School is rated as one of the country's finest teaching institutions, many KU programs are ranked among the best in the country, the KU Endowment Association provides many extras for the school that the state is unable or unwilling to fund and there are many other yardsticks that could be used to demonstrate the excellence of KU.
CONSIDERING the lofty position of KU, it is interesting to note one of the actions of the Kansas Board of Regents at its meeting in Topeka earlier this week.
The regents voted to increase KU Chancellor Gene Budig's annual salary to $142,000, a 5.2 percent increase over his current salary of $135,000.
The $142,000 is a handsome salary figure, considerably above the average earnings figure of most Americans. However, the KU chancellor's salary is next lowest in the Big Eight, with Kansas State University President John Wefald the bottom college prexy wage-earner in the Big Eight.
KU is the conference's largest university, as well as the top academic institution, and yet its chancellor is the next to lowest paid chief executive of all Big Eight chancellors or presidents. Iowa State's president tops the Big Eight salary chart with a figure of $164,000. Both Colorado and Missouri pay their chancellors-presidents $150,000.
THIS REPORTER does not know how the KU faculty rank in their earnings compared to their counterparts at other Big Eight schools, but chances are the pay of these men and women also is substantially lower than the pay of the faculty at many conference sister schools.
A recent report showed KU faculty members are earning considerably less than those at their peer institutions throughout the country.
What does this say about the attitude of Kansas regents and Kansas legislators and Kansas governors about the importance they attach to proper pay levels for their university faculty members and the chief executive officers of the universities?
One point is clear: Kansas taxpayers are getting far more for their tax dollars in the business of higher education than are taxpayers in other Big Eight states. Also, private fiscal support for KU by the school's alumni and friends clearly is playing a highly significant role in helping build the excellence of the KU academic program. Other conference schools are paying their chancellors and/or presidents more than Kansas pays Budig or Wefald, and faculty members at other Big Eight schools probably have a higher average earnings figure than do those at KU or Kansas State.
NEVERTHELESS, KU ranks as the conference's top academic institution. No single individual or single entity can claim credit for this enviable situation, but it certainly would not have come without a highly effective chancellor with vision and a commitment to excellence; nor would it have come about without a faculty that has a genuine commitment to the university even if their earnings are lower in Kansas than they could obtain elsewhere. And, it would not have come about without the generous support of thousands of upon thousands of KU alumni and friends.
"Excellence'' has been the continuing hallmark of KU's academic effort and this commitment, almost an obsession, to excellence is what distinguishes and separates KU from the vast majority of state institutions.
The adage "you get what you pay for'' certainly doesn't apply to KU. In this case, the state receives a far greater dividend than what would be earned from state tax dollars alone.