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Archive for Monday, November 29, 2010

Budget opening

The Kansas Board of Regents’ best shot at budget increases next year is to tie that funding directly to efforts that will benefit the state economy.

November 29, 2010

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It won’t be easy to sell the Kansas Legislature on a funding increase next year, but the best shot the Kansas Board of Regents has is to show specifically how additional money would be used help address certain gaps in the state’s workforce.

Commenting on news that the state budget director planned to propose a spending freeze for higher education next year, Kansas University and regents officials accurately pointed out that a well-trained workforce would be essential to the state’s economic recovery. Two specific areas in which higher education hasn’t been able to keep up with demand are nursing and engineering. The regents, in fact, have asked the state for $14.5 million to produce more graduates in those and other high-need fields.

At least in the area of engineering, higher education officials aren’t the only ones voicing concern. In fact, they may find a sympathetic ear in Senate President Steve Morris, who expressed similar concerns at last month’s Kansas Economic Policy Conference at KU.

“I’m firmly convinced,” he said, “that the shortage of engineers is hurting our state economy overall.”

He noted that graduating more engineers would take a multi-level approach. High school counselors need to put more emphasize on engineering careers and make sure students are adequately prepared to pursue engineering degrees when they go to college. Too often, Morris said, students who plan to study engineering are unprepared for the rigorous program and end up changing their majors.

Morris also acknowledged that if secondary and post-secondary schools in the state can address the attrition problem for engineering majors, the state then will have to come up with the faculty and “bricks and mortar” to support the increased engineering enrollment.

This sounds like a legislator who could be convinced to make a greater investment in a program that he considers vital to the state’s economic future. It’s an opening that Kansas higher education officials should try to take advantage of.

It’s not enough just to say “give us more money.” The Board of Regents must show exactly how an investment in certain programs will pay off by filling key gaps in the Kansas workforce. Morris probably isn’t the only legislator concerned about some of those gaps, but in a year when every penny will count, higher education officials need to make the case that additional funding will have a tangible impact on the state’s economic health.

Comments

KU_cynic 3 years, 9 months ago

Yes, indeed. It's time for KU and the other Regents institutions to abandon the across-the-board; cut-every-program-equally mentality that has been employed during the last three years and make some tough prioritized choices. Identify areas of current or potential strength and target them for additional funding (e.g., nursing and engineering, programs that train math and science teachers). Identify areas of persistent weakness, lack of prestige, and low-value-added to students in terms of research prominence and student placement outcomes and cut them severely, eliminating marginal programs within institutions and consolidating programs across institutions.

The case with the legislature is weakened every time KU and the Regents lead with "let's expand central administration by hiring a new assistant/associate/vice/lieutenant provost or chancellor to do a job we can't seem to do ourselves" or "let's start or highlight a freaky-deaky-oh-so-hip navel-gazing --- studies program" (e.g., a newly created masters and PhD program in womens, gender, and sexuality studies) or lets incur multi-million dollar expenses buying out coaches or athletic directors instead of firing them for cause. (Yeah, yeah, yeah -- it's not state money, they'll say, neglecting that donor funds are limited and fungible and subject to be withheld in disgust in the future).

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KU_cynic 3 years, 9 months ago

As I just posted on a LJW blog at http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/kansas-cynic/2010/nov/29/whats-wrong-with-kansas-u/ :

I was recently enjoying an extended multiple-author "Room for Debate" feature at the New York Times on the topic of why so many scholars from France are moving to the US, manifesting a brain drain of sorts. The discussion can be found at: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/11/28/why-french-scholars-love-us-colleges.

A paragraph in the contribution by Mireille Guilano caught my eye. She writes:

"France’s state-owned higher education system was in sad shape when I was a student there in 1970. The facilities were then and are now run-down, overcrowded, underfunded, and overseen by underpaid and often disgruntled professors and bureaucrats. The students are guaranteed a spot at virtually no cost if they graduate from a French high school, and there is no real urgency for them to graduate in four years. Many stay longer, much longer, especially during hard economic times like today. Plus there is an almost arrogant disconnect between a dated curriculum emphasizing old ideas and the current realities of the 21st century and a global economic workplace."

Substitute "Kansas" or "Kansan" for "France" and "French", respectively, and the paragraph aptly describes higher education in the sunflower state, especially in regard to KU.

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wastewatcher 3 years, 9 months ago

It is simply time for the Regents to set priorities for the use of their dollars. The days of being everything to everyone are over. Set realistic goals and invest our dollars where they are needed and pay off. Quit paying people not to work,eg the retired presidents.

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