Archive for Friday, January 23, 1998

HIGHER EDUCATION PANEL MOVING FORWARD

January 23, 1998

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— A higher education governance reform panel plans to have a proposal by mid February.

Leaders on a special legislative panel assigned to reorganize higher education governance in Kansas said Thursday they are slowly winning a battle against skepticism.

"I think the House this week -- I think the entire Legislature -- has moved a step closer towards believing we should do this this year," said Rep. Ed McKechnie of Pittsburg, the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Higher Education.

"I think probably about four or five believed that last Monday," McKechnie said. "And that number has grown substantially."

Many legislators were skeptical about what the committee, formed by House Speaker Tim Shallenburger, could accomplish this year. That's because there have been 22 similar efforts over past years to reform the current system, which has been criticized for competition between institutions, duplication of programs and not making the best use of taxpayer dollars.

The Kansas Board of Regents oversees the state's universities, including Kansas University and the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. The state Board of Education supervises community colleges and vocational-technical schools.

"People should be skeptical," McKechnie said.

However, one of the reasons the panel is being taken seriously is because the House will not consider higher education budgets until the special committee comes out with a recommendation in late February, Adkins said.

"I don't think we've put the institutions at risk, but I think that has attempted to underline the legitimacy of this effort and that the speaker and the appropriations committee are serious about this effort," Adkins said.

McKechnie and Adkins said they were making quick progress during the three meetings they have held this week.

They hope to have a rough plan together by the weekend of Feb. 13-15 to take it on a tour around the state to get input from officials at state universities and community colleges. A bill is expected to be drafted by the week of Feb. 25.

"I believe that many members of the committee are now at a point where we can begin to formulate a consensus on what kind of a governance plan can better serve Kansas," Adkins said.

"I hope that next week we can solidify that consensus and begin developing the parameters of our report," he said.

McKechnie said that next week the committee will consider how to focus the missions of each of the regents institutions.

"We want to sharpen their excellence and to make programs that are truly world class and relevant," he said.

-- Dave Toplikar's phone message number is 832-7151. His e-mail address is toplikar@ljworld.com.

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