Wichita Higher education officials Wednesday pushed back hard at the prospect of more budget cuts, and said they may have to cap enrollment at their institutions.
The comments came from several state college presidents during a retreat of the Kansas Board of Regents.
At the end of the discussion, regents members said they would try to present a unified message to the public and Legislature that more budget cuts would do serious damage to higher education in Kansas.
Regent Dan Lykins said Kansans need to be outraged about higher educations cuts as much as they would be outraged if Kansas University announced it was reducing basketball scholarships.
“It’s got to be something that will hit home immediately,” Lykins said.
Because of falling tax revenue, the Legislature and Gov. Mark Parkinson have cut higher education by $100 million, nearly 12 percent during the past year.
Republican legislative leaders have raised the possibility of more cuts when the legislative session starts in January and have vowed not to increase taxes.
“Its pretty clear we’re going to continue to be in a really difficult budget climate,” said Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Reginald Robinson. He said higher education faces “the real prospect of additional state general fund cuts before the end of the fiscal year.”
But the university chiefs said the current cuts have already damaged campuses and further cuts would make the situation worse.
“I think we ought to talk about an enrollment cap,” said Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz.
Emporia State University President Michael Lane said he was considering limiting the number of students at his campus. He said the reduced funding also hurts retention and graduation rates because students are not getting the kind of close attention they need.
Lane predicted some lawmakers will “punish” schools twice by cutting funds and then complaining about graduation rates.
Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who assumed office this month, said further reductions in funding could affect the KU School of Nursing and how many nursing students could be accepted since accreditation requires a certain faculty to student ratio. She said the school was not at that point yet but could be if further cuts were enacted.
Regent Gary Sherrer said the regents will try to inform the public and Legislature about the negative effects of budget cuts. The cuts have been especially harmful to community colleges and technical schools, which are also seeing large student increases, officials said.
“You think it’s automatic that your child will go to Hutchinson Community College? If these cuts don’t stop, it isn’t,” Sherrer said.