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Archive for Sunday, February 6, 1994

LONG AND WINDING ROAD

February 6, 1994

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Pressure to add Washburn University to the Kansas Board of Regents system of public universities has been building. Here's some history of that struggle:

  • 1985: In April, WU officials adopted a resolution asking the Legislature to study the possibility of making WU a state university. An interim legislative committee recommended WU join the system. In September 1985, the Kansas Board of Regents and KU Chancellor Gene Budig denounced a proposal that would admit WU.

1986: Two WU affiliation bills were introduced in the House early in the 1986 legislative session. Both failed to generate support. In March, WU regents passed a resolution that expressed a willingness to retain local tax support of WU to achieve state affiliation. In response, a third bill was introduced in 1986 that would have made WU a state school in 1988, retain a local property tax and freeze tuition rates. That bill died in the House.

1987: A House bill surfaced that would make all of public higher education, including Washburn, governed by the Board of Regents. The bill passed the House, but died in the Senate. The Legislature did, however, allocate $200,000 to Washburn. It was the first time WU received a direct operating grant from the state.

1988: The Legislature rejected multiple efforts to link WU to the Board of Regents. The House let two bills die in committee and killed a compromise version from a House/Senate conference committee. Late in the year, the Board of Regents declined to support movement of WU to the state system unless large financial commitments were made to KU.

1989: Gov. Mike Hayden asked the Legislature to phase Washburn into the system over five years and cut Topeka property tax support for the university. Hayden tied his WU plan to raises in salaries of existing regents' faculty. The Senate stripped the Washburn plan from a bill. However, the Legislature increased WU's operating grant to $1.4 million.

1990: Shawnee County legislators introduced a state affiliation bill that never received a hearing.

1991: The Legislature handed control of the operating grant to Washburn to the Kansas Board of Regents.

1992: A Senate bill designed to make Washburn a full partner in the system died in committee. Officials from the Kansas Board of Regents and Washburn began talks in October 1992 to draft a compromise plan for making WU the seventh state university. In frustration over lack of progress on Washburn, the Shawnee County legislative delegation voted as a bloc to kill a bill that would have established qualified admissions at regents' universities.

1993: Gov. Joan Finney unveiled a plan that links state university faculty salary increases with the fate of Washburn. She wants WU to become a state university in 1997.

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