During the upcoming state legislative session, Kansas University hopes to make it through budget cuts as well as possible, while potentially instituting some new programs.
“The budget will be the beginning, the middle and the end of the story for the 2009 session,” said Kathy Damron, KU director of state relations.
That does leave some room for some KU proposals, such as an initiative to give universities more flexibility in offering tuition reimbursements and scholarships.
If KU receives the authority, it would develop a proposal to issue tuition reimbursements to out-of-state legacy students, said Danny Anderson, vice provost for academic affairs.
“When we look at doing this, we have in mind that resident students and state monies are not going to be used to subsidize nonresident students,” he said.
By offering a lower rate of tuition to out-of-state students whose parents attended KU, it could keep more of those students who were accepted to the university, he said.
In a typical year, about 425 such students are accepted to the university, and about 160 actually come. If KU could increase the number of students it accepts, it could generate more money by offering a slightly less overall tuition rate.
Also, similar programs in other states have offered higher reimbursements to students with better academic performances, attracting higher-quality students to the institution, Anderson said.
Damron said KU will also be highlighting the statewide pharmacy shortage, and hoping to find new sources of funds for the remaining $30 million on KU’s proposed pharmacy expansion.
That project has already sold $20 million worth of bonds, and the remaining $30 million was to be funded using gambling revenue — a source that has not fully materialized and is jeopardized by setbacks on three of the state’s four authorized casinos.
State Rep. Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat and House Minority Leader, said that any new revenue sources for state universities will be hard to find this year.
“Universities are going to be in good shape if they can hold on to what they’ve got right now,” Davis said.
However, with budgets tight across the state, that leaves some legislative committees free to work on other proposals that don’t require funding. That means this year may be a better time to consider proposals like one to return control of admissions standards to the Kansas Board of Regents.
“I think that issue will be addressed,” Davis said, saying that anything that doesn’t require new funding will be “much more likely to get the attention of the Legislature.”
Damron said that KU would likely try to get the remaining $30 million funded through more bonds.
“The alternative is that we’re yet one more year behind,” she said.
KU will be seeking out ways it can become more efficient, she said, including asking for a loosening on restrictions that increase delays and costs on buildings built with private funds.
In order to assist with its legislative efforts, this year KU has expanded its online presence with its Jayhawks for Higher Education program.
That program has asked members of the KU Alumni Association to register to receive updates throughout the legislative session. KU will ask the members of the organization to contact their legislators on behalf of ongoing efforts KU is undertaking.
Hundreds have already signed up.
“It will allow for a lot more interaction,” Damron said. “There is still nothing more powerful than direct contact from a constituent to an elected official elected to represent them.”