The leaders of Kansas’ largest universities on Monday asked legislators to stop any further cuts to higher education, saying more reductions will produce long-term damage to the institutions and harm the state’s economic recovery.
Facing a $400 million revenue shortfall, the chair of the House Education Budget Committee, told the higher education leaders that now would be a good time to increase collaboration between regents schools.
“You can deliver a better product probably at a reduced price by working together,” said state Rep. Joe McLeland, R-Wichita. He said that in the past, university leaders were too involved in creating “empires” and competing against each other.
Both Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz vowed to worked together.
“My view is that Kansas is better off not only if we are strong but if other institutions are strong as well,” Gray-Little said.
Both Gray-Little and Schulz told the committee that they supported Gov. Mark Parkinson’s position to hold the line on further cuts to education.
Higher Education has already been cut more than $100 million. Parkinson has called for a tax increase to bridge the budget gap in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Gray-Little said KU has absorbed $37.3 million in cuts and unfunded mandates. That has resulted in reductions in its engineering and nursing programs — two professions that have shortages. “This has the potential to harm the longterm prosperity in Kansas,” she said.
She asked the committee, which will be working on the higher education budget over the next few weeks, to maintain the state’s investment in higher education “even if that requires finding new revenue.”