Topeka In a last-minute scramble, the Legislature on Friday pushed through an initiative designed to increase the number of engineering graduates in Kansas.
One bill would provide $10.5 million per year to be split equally between Kansas University, Kansas State and Wichita State. The program would start in 2013, last 10 years, and the funds would have to be matched by non-state funds from the schools.
Another bill would give KU the authority to issue $65 million in bonds to build a 100,000 square-foot classroom building for the engineering school. This would be built adjacent to a 34,600 square-foot engineering lab currently under construction.
Both measures were approved by the House and Senate and sent to Gov. Sam Brownback for his consideration.
"KU has a good problem," said state Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City. "They are bursting at the seams," in the engineering school, she said.
Some legislators weren't sold on the idea that the annual allocations were needed. "I don't think anyone has made the case that throwing money at this is going to solve the problem," said state Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona.
But House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, said, "I think the need has been demonstrated," for increasing the number of engineers educated and working in Kansas. "These are highly trained, highly educated, high paying jobs," O'Neal said.
The goal of the initiative is to increase the number of engineering graduates from 875 per year to 1,365 graduates per year by 2021.
The $10.5 million annual allocations would come from gambling revenue from state-operated casinos.
The repayment of the $65 million in bonds would come special revenue funds of KU, legislators said.
The engineering initiative was pushed by higher education and industry officials, who said they needed a steady stream of engineering graduates to stay in Kansas.
KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little met with legislative leaders early Thursday to discuss the engineering initiative.