TOPEKA — Like schools across the nation, Kansas University is facing flat or reduced state and national funding, and pressure to stop increasing tuition.
To help address those concerns, KU is now increasing its emphasis on building partnerships with the private sector.
“There is a limit on how much we can increase tuition,” Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said at a recent budget workshop with the Kansas Board of Regents.
“Our fundraising from corporations has been very minimal,” she said, adding that KU is making a concerted effort to increase the amount it raises from corporations and foundations.
In the last fiscal year, KU had $346.7 million in research funding. Of that amount, $195.7 million came from the federal government; $116 million came from institutional, state and local sources; $25.4 million from nonprofits; and $9.6 million from the private sector.
Provost Jeff Vitter said KU has a lot of room to increase that share of private sector research dollars.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity,” Vitter said.
Julie Nagel, director of industrial partnerships, has been tasked with putting together a comprehensive approach for KU to engage private businesses.
Nagel was hired last year to fill the newly created position to develop mutually beneficial partnerships between the school and companies. She works within the KU Center for Technology Commercialization, which assists with commercial development of KU research.
For example, Nagel said over the past few years, many pharmaceutical companies have divested their research and development functions and now are teaming up with universities to conduct research.
“The ground has really shifted where the federal government funding for research is at best flat, and industries are having to look at universities,” she said.
She said companies working with KU “pay full freight for any research project.”
KU also benefits from collaborations with the private sector through setting up pipelines for internships and jobs.
She said if the assets of the university can be used to help the state economy “the whole state wins.”