Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said Tuesday that higher education’s success in Kansas is directly tied to business’ success, and encouraged area business leaders to help promote KU’s cause in Topeka.
Speaking at a Lawrence Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Gray-Little said KU is a large economic presence in Lawrence and spends millions on goods and services in the community.
“There’s a special relationship between business and prosperity in higher education,” Gray-Little said.
She said 17 active start-up companies have been generated from faculty research done at KU, and the school brings in $200 million per year in federal grant dollars.
KU also is increasingly unable to fill work force needs in areas like engineering and nursing, she said.
“The concern is, when will we get to the point where we cannot recover?” Gray-Little said.
She encouraged business leaders to contact state government leaders and ask them to hold the line on higher education funding. KU has reduced its staff by 285 positions, along with making a host of other spending cuts across its campuses.
“Certainly this means something to us, but it also means there are fewer customers” spending money in Lawrence, she said.
Tom Kern, chamber president and CEO, agreed that the success of KU, Lawrence and Douglas County were interconnected.
“It’s very important for the business community in Lawrence to understand that relationship, that when KU hiccups, there’s an impact,” Kern said.