In the past two years, state tax support to higher education in Kansas increased 4 percent -- less than half the national average.
Kansas lawmakers have been less generous than politicians in neighboring states when appropriating taxpayer dollars to public higher education.
Legislators and Gov. Bill Graves increased funding to Kansas University and other state colleges and universities by 4 percent the past two years.
An Illinois State University study, conducted annually for 38 years, says the two-year increase in all of the four states surrounding Kansas was more than twice that total. The tallies: Missouri, 15 percent; Oklahoma and Colorado, 14 percent; Nebraska, 9 percent.
In Kansas, the study covered KU and five other Kansas Board of Regents universities, Washburn University in Topeka and community colleges.
ISU's statistics didn't include university funding from tuition, lotteries, private donations and local governments.
Stephen Jordan, executive director of the Board of Regents, said Kansas' standing in terms of state appropriations reflected historical precedent.
"Never any big increases, but no dramatic decreases," he said.
Nationally, state tax dollar allocations in fiscal 1996-97 were nearly 9 percent higher than two years ago.
While 22 states reported in excess of 10 percent increases, six states recorded a decrease. Biggest improvement: California and Nevada, up 20 percent. Largest decline: New York, down 10 percent.
Jordan said one reason the state of Kansas stacked up poorly against its neighbors was that other state governments invested more heavily in faculty salary budgets.
"There is no doubt that for two consecutive years the faculty salary increase in surrounding states has been higher," he said.
He said regents shared responsibility with the legislative and executive branches for that situation. Regents didn't adequately make the case for substantial salary hikes, he said.
Regents are moving ahead with programs -- post-tenure review, for example -- designed to demonstrate each university's commitment to financial accountability. If the Legislature and Graves respond positively to those initiatives, the outcome could be faculty compensation.
The governor and dozens of House and Senate members will be in Lawrence today for the Kansas-Kansas State football game.
"It is imperative for us to begin addressing the compensation issue if we want to maintain the quality of the faculty," Jordan said.
The ISU study showed state tax funds for operating expenses at higher education institutions in Kansas totaled $531 million this fiscal year, a two-year gain of 4 percent. KU's share of that pot is $193 million.
If inflation is taken into account, Kansas public colleges and universities watched purchasing power of their appropriations decline 1 percent in two years. In all, 16 states suffered inflation-adjusted declines.