Topeka The state Board of Regents appealed today a $12.9 million reduction proposed by the administration of Gov. Joan Finney in the fiscal year 1995 budget of the state's six universities.
At the same time, the regents unveiled a proposed three-year plan to bolster faculty salaries and make other financial improvements, called the Partnership for Excellence. It is a successor to the Margin of Excellence program of the late 1980s that never was fully funded by the state.
The regents are seeking a $54.2 million increase in funding -- $48.4 million of which would come from the state general fund -- for next fiscal year, while Gloria Timmer, state budget director, proposed a $12.9 million cut in the universities' funding.
Regents Chairman John G. Montgomery of Junction City, regents fiscal affairs Chairman Don Slawson of Wichita and Kansas State University President Jon Wefald appealed the budget cuts during an appeals hearing before Finney and her staff at the Statehouse today.
The proposed Partnership for Excellence envisions a three-year program with an annual increase of 3 percent in state spending on the universities' base budgets and a 9 percent increase in resident student tuition at the three larger universities and 5 percent at the three regional universities.
Three percent of the tuition increase would be used to help fund the base budget increases for the universities, with the portion of the tuition increase above 3 percent -- an estimated $8.3 million -- going entirely for faculty salary increases.
``The Partnership for Excellence will direct tuition increases to specific university improvements, seeking reversal of a trend in which tuition increases have been utilized to reduce the share of university funding from the state general fund,'' Montgomery said during the budget appeal hearing.
Regents figures show state general fund support for the system has increased an average of just 1.4 percent over the past three years, while tuition revenue has increased an average of 10.7 percent.
``We request your assistance in dispelling the myth that the regents institutions have received disproportionately large budget increases during recent years,'' Montgomery told Finney.
Montgomery, Slawson and Wefald all expressed concern that unless faculty salaries are bolstered the Kansas universities are going to suffer a decline in faculty quality, especially at the Kansas University and Kansas State.
Improving faculty salaries, Wefald said, ``is our No. 1 priority, and Nov. 2, No.3, No. 4 and No. 5; really it is.''
He said students support the tuition increase because they realize that without it the quality of faculty is going to suffer.
The situation is particularly acute at KU and K-State, Wefald said.
``If we don't get salaries up, we're dead in the water,'' he said. ``They start leaving and retiring, and if we don;t get these salaries up we don't get the rising stars to replace them.''
There was student input in the process by which the regents arrived at the 9 percent tuition increase at KU, K-State and Wichita State, Wefald said.
``When push comes to shove, the students are willing to pay,'' he said. ``We're still one of the best (education) buys in the United States of America today.''