Wichita Kansas University would have to cut up to 125 employee positions in Lawrence if talks about budget cuts become reality.
Chancellor Robert Hemenway told members of the Board of Regents during its annual retreat in Wichita that if 5 percent was cut from next year's budget, there was no way students wouldn't be affected.
"We would have to cut between 100 and 125 positions, and that's just on the Lawrence campus," he said. "The medical center cut would be something similar. We hope we don't have to do that."
KU employed about 8,000 people on both campuses last year.
On July 14, Duane Goossen, Kansas budget director, asked state colleges and universities to prepare a list of possible cuts that could be made.
Higher education officials were asked to consider two scenarios: a 2 percent cut this year and a 5 percent cut the next.
While unpleasant, Hemenway said, a 2 percent cut would be manageable.
According to the memo Hemenway submitted to the regents, KU would delay purchasing equipment for classrooms and offices. But Hemenway noted the university's technology has lagged behind other universities. KU would also reduce its operating expenses. In "times when supplies are exhausted; faculty and staff will do without," he proclaimed in the memo.
Some faculty development activities, such as research and professional conference travel, would also be trimmed.
The largest impact - the staff cuts - would come from the possible 5 percent cut next year.
"The continued failure to hire faculty creates a lack of expertise in emerging fields, gaps in future leadership cohorts, and undermines overall institutional reputation," Hemenway wrote.
K-State leaders said similar cuts would be necessary there. President Jon Wefald said K-State would have to implement a hiring freeze and cut back on purchasing technology.
K-State would need to cut about 180 positions and about 400 class sections, Wefald said.
Tuition increases - to cover any deficits - should be a last resort, he said.
"The goal should be to safeguard students," Wefald said.
Hemenway said that if it came to the point that tuition had to be raised, it had to be the last course of action.
"There's an important piece of rhetoric we need to keep in mind: the students come first," he said. "Helping students work to a degree has to be the first thing we do. If the students aren't there, there's no reason for us being there."
Emporia State, Wichita State, Fort Hays State and Pittsburg State leaders all agreed that if the cuts became reality, there was no way to protect students.
Fort Hays President Ed Hammond said regional universities would be especially affected, as larger chunks of their budgets come from the state.
Regent Gary Sherrer said the board needs to be honest with its budget proposal.
"No Chicken Little language," he said. "No BS. We want to say, 'I can prove this to you. If this is the budget I have to do, I can prove to you that there is no option but to impact the future of the students.' "
The regents must submit their recommendations to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius by Sept. 15.
After his presentation Wednesday, Hemenway said the university would brace for its impact, rather than scramble to adjust if it became reality.
"We'll prepare for 5 percent in 2010 and hope it's never implemented," he said.