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Archive for Thursday, June 24, 2004

Regents chair worries universities being shortchanged

June 24, 2004

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— The state's restructured higher education system may be shifting too much money to community colleges and technical schools, the chairwoman of the Kansas Board of Regents said Wednesday.

Janice DeBauge said she was concerned that the current funding system, enacted in 1999, was hurting the state's six universities.

"We need to support each mission and level the playing field," DeBauge said. "This exacerbates whatever inequity is there."

DeBauge's comments came during discussion of how much of a budget increase to request from the 2005 Legislature.

The 1999 Higher Education Coordination Act requires regents to request specific money for such items as faculty salary increases and property-tax relief for areas with community colleges. Next year, the required funds amount to $79 million of the $145 million in additional money requested for higher education.

But DeBauge, who lives in Emporia, noted the formula was leading to a 17 percent increase for technical schools and colleges, 38 percent for community colleges and only 10 percent for regents universities.

A funding study completed by Citizens for Higher Education, based in Kansas City, found Kansas four-year universities fare worse than community colleges when compared with peer funding. For example, Kansas University receives about 85 percent in operating funding compared with its peers, while community colleges receive about 105 percent the funding of their peers.

Regent Donna Shank of Liberal said the state law requiring regents to ask for certain money might hurt their chances for increasing their funding during tight budget times. She said the overall 20 percent increase regents were requesting was likely to be dismissed immediately by legislators.

"If they throw that out, there's nothing to debate," Shank said. "They get to decide on their own how much (money) to put in."

Shank and DeBauge were joined by Regent Deryl Wynn, of Kansas City, Kan., in opposing the requested budget. Regents Lew Ferguson of Topeka, Frank Gaines of Hamilton, Nelson Galle of Manhattan, Jim Grier of Wichita, Bill Docking of Arkansas City and Dick Bond of Overland Park voted to approve the budget request.

Bond said he favored following the law on requesting the funds but noted "the reality is it doesn't matter much" because the Legislature will base its debate on Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' budget recommendations.

"This is one volley we're shooting cater-corner across the street (to the Legislature) that's probably going to miss everyone," he said.

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