Manhattan Concern about national rankings of Kansas universities brought Gov. Sam Brownback and his economic advisers together Tuesday to brainstorm about how to raise those rankings.
"This is a big deal," Brownback said. He said increasing the stature of the universities will require "reallocation of resources at the universities and investments from the state."
Earlier this month, KU fell a few spots in the annual U.S. News & World Report.
KU ranked 106th among national universities, which is down from 101st last year, and 51st among public universities, down from 46th, according to the list.
Universities such as Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa State, Colorado, Iowa, Texas and Texas A&M ranked higher than KU and Kansas State University, which was ranked 139th among national universities and 70th among public universities.
Higher education officials said that while the rankings were important they were not all-important.
"You don't start with U.S. News & World Report," said Kansas Board of Regents Vice Chairman Fred Logan, although he added that the magazine's rankings cannot be ignored.
Logan, KU and KSU officials told the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors that they had longterm plans to increase rankings.
"We are serious," Logan said. "All of our universities are serious about their aspirational missions," he said.
KU's plan, called Bold Aspirations, seeks to raise graduation and retention rates and increase the research capabilities of the university. The K-State plan, called "K-State 2025," seeks to put the school in the top 50 of public universities by 2025.
In a breakout session, KU Provost Jeff Vitters said the Bold Aspirations plan "is central to everything that we are doing."
Vitter said one of KU's major goals is maintaining membership in the Association of American Universities, a prestigious group that includes 61 schools. He noted there are 25 schools ranked ahead of KU in U.S News & Report that are not members of AAU.
Economic council members said they were impressed with the KU and K-State plans and recommended that the universities report more frequently on progress made on those plans, and tell the public more about successes at the schools.
Brownback suggested putting together a summit on higher education to look at "where we are and where we are going" and include leadership from "all sectors of Kansas" at the meeting.
Economic council members said the universities should tailor their goals in a way that helped the business community.
Vitter said, "When you look at countries or states that have really prospered, they are all centered around education."