Topeka Higher education officials last week approved both short- and long-range plans. Now they say their job is to sell them to the public and policymakers.
And students are getting on board.
Michael Wade Smith, Kansas University student body president, said he and his colleagues at other institutions will lobby legislators — including campus visits for legislators who have been unfriendly to higher education initiatives, all with the hope of changing their minds.
He said the students’ advisory council to the Kansas Board of Regents also will produce a video with student testimonials on higher education from each institution.
“I can’t wait to see that video,” said Regents Chairman Gary Sherrer, who said the group of student body leaders is the most impressive he has seen in a long time.
Smith said the effort will show “the student commitment to the Kansas Commitment.”
The Kansas Commitment is the short-range plan by the regents to increase funding, target those dollars on specific goals and build a new funding stream to provide financial assistance to students from low- and middle-income families.
That plan calls for an increase of $20.5 million in the higher education operating grant to cover for inflation over the past three years — a period in which higher ed funding was cut 12 percent from $853 million to $751 million because of the state’s fiscal crisis.
The proposal also calls for restoration of $15.75 million in deferred maintenance funds and providing $14.15 million in state funds that would be paired with $7.1 million from the schools to produce specific state workforce improvements. For example, Kansas University, Kansas State and Wichita State would have to increase the number of engineering graduates by more than 50 percent.
And the plan supports creation of a $10 million need-based student financial aid program that would be funded by recouping $6 million in state sales taxes on purchases made on campuses, plus $4 million provided by athletics departments.
On the long-range front, the regents last week put the finishing touches on Foresight 2020.
This plan puts forward strategic goals, such as enhancing coordination between the pre-K-12 public school system and post-secondary systems, and specific targets, such as increasing first- to second-year student retention rates by 10 percentage points by 2020.
Sherrer said it’s hoped the plans put forward by the regents will emphasize the importance of higher education in Kansas.
“Public higher education is a critical asset to Kansans, is key to economic success and is essential for securing the best possible future for our citizens and our state,” he said.