Topeka Higher education officials have identified $440 million worth of projects that are “shovel ready” if the federal government approves an economic stimulus plan.
In a letter Wednesday to the Kansas congressional delegation, Kansas Board of Regents officials urged the members to support a recovery bill that included funds for higher education.
President Obama has proposed an $825 billion package of expenditures and tax cuts to stimulate the economy. The proposal includes increased spending for Pell Grants and infrastructure improvements at institutions of higher education.
“Kansas higher education institutions play a vital role in meeting our state’s economic and workforce development needs, and we stand ready to assist in your efforts to steer our nation towards economic recovery, and to position Kansas for a healthy and prosperous future,” the letter states.
Of the $440 million of projects, Kansas University had $185.4 million worth of repairs, maintenance, replacements and construction at the Lawrence campus. This included $50.7 million for construction of a new building for the KU School of Pharmacy. There was $28.2 million worth of projects at the KU Medical Center, with the biggest expenses being nearly $6 million worth of improvements to the center’s energy facility.
The long list of projects also includes numerous re-roofing jobs, construction of parking lots and repairs.
Officials said they chose the projects by consulting with the schools. They listed only projects that could be designed and permitted by Feb. 15 and could be started within four months of getting the funding. And they said they placed a priority on maintenance, utility and infrastructure improvement, and energy efficiency.
In the letter, Kansas higher education officials also voiced support for increasing Pell Grants.
“An increase in student financial aid would provide immediate relief to hard-working students and their families who are struggling to pay tuition and other educational costs during the current economic downturn,” the letter said. It was signed by Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Reginald Robinson, Regents Chairwoman Donna Shank, and Vice Chairwoman Jill Docking.
Facing a budget crisis, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has proposed cutting higher education by 7 percent, or $120 million. Higher education officials say they are hoping a federal recovery plan could help offset any eventual state cuts.