Topeka — Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Friday she was concerned with new tuition increases and disagreed with Kansas Board of Regents members who said the increases were needed to make up for miserly state spending on higher education.
"I am really worried about pricing talented Kansas kids out of higher education at a time where we need the best educated work force in the world in order to compete," Sebelius said.
Thursday, the regents approved for the third straight year sizable tuition increases at public universities, this time ranging from 8.9 percent at Fort Hays State University to 18 percent at Kansas University.
"We have to act because the Legislature hasn't acted for so long," said Regent Deryl Wynn of Kansas City, Kan.
Sebelius said such a description "isn't a very accurate picture."
Sebelius noted that despite a tight state budget, she and the Legislature this year increased spending on higher education by $31 million and added faculty raises that had been postponed.
And she said unlike other states, Kansas has not "slashed" higher education funding to make up for budgetary shortfalls in other areas.
Sebelius said the tuition increases were based on a plan passed several years ago by the regents.
She also expressed concern over pay raises granted by the regents to university chiefs that were higher than those given to other state employees and faculty. State employees will receive a 3 percent pay raise, and most faculty about 4 percent.
"That creates a tension," but, she added, that she didn't want to "micromanage" the regents' budget decisions.
Two university presidents received 6 percent raises; KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway received a 4 percent increase.
At KU, faculty will receive a 6 percent pay raise because the school has also earmarked money collected in tuition increases.
Sebelius said the regents needed to focus on improving instruction.
"That is a critical issue that needs to be considered: How much of the dollars are going to administration and what actually will be funneled to the classrooms that benefit the students who are attending universities and vocational colleges."