Topeka A Senate panel has questions about how the state should spend its higher education dollars.
Kansas University Chancellor Gene Budig and Kansas State University President Jon Wefald told a Senate Ways and Means subcommittee Monday that the state needs to put more funding into higher education to attract and keep high quality faculty.
But a panel member said perhaps the state should consider closing some of the state's institutions to help free up more money.
"We clearly know that at some point in the not-too-distant future those kinds of decisions will have to be made," said Sen. Robert Vancrum, R-Overland Park.
Budig and Wefald told the panel that the state's institutions need more funding to compete in a national marketplace for top faculty and researchers.
"We must be able to attract and retain the best and the brightest," Budig said.
Budig and Wefald, as well as Kansas Board of Regents officials, made a pitch for the regents' Partnership for Excellence program, which combines higher state funding and higher tuition over three years to pay for teaching faculty salary enhancements. The plan also is tied to making Washburn University in Topeka a state institution by July 1, 1997.
However, Vancrum and Sen. Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, members of the Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee on Regents Systemwide Issues, questioned whether another state institution is needed.
The subcommittee was to continue working on the regents' budget this week, according to the panel's chairman, Sen. Gus Bogina, R-Lenexa.
Vancrum said he thought a task force eventually should be appointed to consider consolidating or closing some of the state's community colleges and universities.
"Part of the problem is we have too many institutions in Kansas," Vancrum said. "If the regents aren't going to take on the problem of too many universities, who is?"
John Montgomery, regents chairman, said that issue, because of its political ramifications, should be jointly considered by the Legislature and the regents.
Kerr said a study by Charles Krider, a KU business professor, has indicated that only 20 percent of the new jobs created in the future will require a traditional four-year college education.
Kerr said the study indicated most of the newer jobs will instead require technical training.
He said before adopting the Partnership for Excellence program and making Washburn a state institution, the state should make sure it is putting its post-secondary education dollars where they are needed most.
Kerr said after the meeting that the state "has a pretty woeful situation in technology. We're not doing a good job. I think everyone would agree we're allocating just minimum resources to technology education."
The only real technology school the state has is KSU-Salina, College of Technology, Kerr said. And the state's vocational-technical schools are poorly funded with out-of-date equipment, he said.
"In light of what we know about what we can expect in demands for people and their skills, is this focusing resources where they ought to be?" he said. "I think that's the real issue. It's not Washburn in, Washburn out. The real issue is we should be allocating resources where they will accomplish what we need to accomplish to move into the 21st century. ... This piecemeal stuff doesn't get it."