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Archive for Friday, January 22, 1993

DEBATE CONTINUES OVER WASHBURN

January 22, 1993

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— Many ideas are under consideration to make Washburn University a member of the Kansas Board of Regents system, including the possibility of merging WU with Kansas University.

It's unlikely the Topeka university will be linked with KU, both regents and KU administrators said Thursday, but the debate about WU's future illustrates that advocates of state affiliation will continue pushing for the change.

Other possibilities include Washburn's becoming a full-fledged state university. That would bring the number of schools in the regents system to seven.

Another option would be to allow Washburn to become a state university, but spin off WU's law school into an independent entity so it wouldn't compete directly with KU's law school.

The Board of Regents decided in 1988 to oppose Washburn's inclusion in the state system as long as existing state universities were underfunded.

However, individual regents oppose that policy now and want the Legislature to accept Washburn into the state's public university system.

REGENT Frank Sabatini of Topeka remains the strongest proponent of state affilitation for Washburn, the last municipal university in the nation.

"Washburn should come in as a stand-alone university," Sabatini said. "It would be an asset to the state, and it would strengthen the regents system."

Sabatini said WU would bring to the state a campus valued at more than $100 million, a large endowment, 6,000 students, 24,000 alumni and a large legislative delegation.

Regents Chair Shirley Palmer of Fort Scott said Gov. Joan Finney told her she supports state affiliation for Washburn.

Ted Ayres, regents general counsel and the board's primary legislative liaison, said a full state-affiliation bill would be introduced in the Legislature this session.

The bill would phase WU into the system over five years and leave in place a local property tax to support capital improvements at Washburn, he said.

KU CHANCELLOR Gene Budig said he didn't expect the 1993 Legislature to pass a bill on Washburn.

"There are too many legitimate demands on limited state resources," he said.

A three-member Board of Regents subcommittee has been instructed to consider a variety of options regarding Washburn and report to the full board in November.

"There are no solid recommendations at this point," Budig said.

Regent Donald Slawson of Wichita said his enthusiasm for adding Washburn had waned. The state can't afford another university, he said.

"For this decade, it has to be a revenue-neutral position," he said. "Washburn's plan of coming in as a free-standing institution won't happen in my lifetime."

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