As higher education leaders are trying to drum up support for additional funding this year, Kansas University will host a conference highlighting the role higher education plays for the state.
Donna Ginther, a KU professor of economics, is organizing the Kansas Economic Policy Conference, which will include speakers from state government and the business and university communities.
KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, Kansas Senate President Steve Morris and Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Gary Sherrer are scheduled to attend the Oct. 21 conference.
The chief executives of five of the six regents universities will participate in an afternoon forum, joined by a representative from Kansas State University.
In the past, economic policy conference topics have focused on areas like health care and the recent economic crisis, Ginther said. Public education was chosen this year to bring a sharper focus on the value of the expense for the state, she said.
“It’s a huge cost and it’s under legislative pressure constantly,” Ginther said. “But there are also benefits to having an educated public.”
Sherrer said the effort streamlined well with regents’ efforts to highlight the value of funding higher education. The board has announced a plan that calls for funding specific work-force goals, like training more engineers in the state.
“I think it’s very important for people to understand that there’s an economic benefit generated by our universities far, far, far exceeding the amount of money the state is putting in,” Sherrer said.
If it were a business, he said, such a rate of return would likely call for more investment. But, as he pointed out, such decisions are placed outside the bounds of the regents’ authority, and left to the Legislature.
“We can allocate the money and we can advocate for the money, but we can’t appropriate it,” he said.