Apparently it’s a difficult slog across uncertain terrain to position the state to increase the number of doctors that Kansas University Medical Center graduates each year.
And it doesn’t get any easier.
The governor’s budget included $10 million from the state over two years to help replace an outdated facility with a new $75 million medical education building at the KU Medical Center. The project is one of KU’s top priorities, and the construction is part of KU’s initiative to boost the number of physicians trained in Kansas.
KU had asked the state to help finance the building by releasing $25 million that was returned by the federal government from an overpayment of FICA taxes during the 1990s. Instead, the budget director grabbed $15 million for the state’s starved general fund and reluctantly ponied up the $10 million for the medical center project.
Now even that amount seems to be in jeopardy.
A Kansas Senate Ways and Means subcommittee on education has recommended cutting the $10 million and also proposed a sweeping audit of costs at KU, saying its expenses are too high compared with other schools. Sen. Tom Arpke of Salina, who chairs the Senate Ways and Means subcommittee on education, is the one making these assertions. He also maintains that KU needs to improve its graduation rate.
KU has responded, saying that its tuition is in the lower third of its peer research universities. Efforts to improve the graduation rate already have been initiated.
Applying the scorecard President Obama outlined in his state of the union address, KU’s average net cost of $14,768 annually is second behind the University of Missouri in a quick comparison of six Midwestern universities, and only $416 more than the cost to attend Kansas State University. Additionally, KU’s graduation rate is higher than K-State’s, which is the lowest (at 56 percent) among the six schools compared.
On Thursday, Gov. Brownback reaffirmed his support for the $10 million allocation and said he wasn’t concerned about the subcommittee’s negative recommendation, which is scheduled to be considered by the full Senate Ways and Means Committee on Monday. Let’s hope the committee follows the governor’s lead by rejecting Arpke’s punitive audit and restoring the funds to expand medical education at KU.