Editorial: Punitive proposal

A Senate subcommittee’s recommendation to cut funding for a Kansas University Medical Center building and single out KU for a comprehensive audit has a punitive tone.

February 17, 2013


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The governor’s budget included $10 million from the state over two years to help replace an outdated facility with a new $75 million medical education building at the KU Medical Center.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.


Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

Good job Sir. Are you finally figuring out your Golden Boy is going to screw KU and the K-12 schools? You are learning, albeit slowly.

Dan Eyler 5 years, 2 months ago

I'm not sure how it can be unfair to ask the University of Kansas to justify every penny it spends. They seek millions and millions from the taxpayers as though it is some type of entitlement. They have raised their costs to the breaking point where more Kansans than any point in time cannot afford the education. Students attending other schools in the state for half the price are graduating faster and with equal or more opportunity with a few exceptions. Kansas University is moving slowest to reform the educational process which includes a real and significant reduction in cost of operations. To suggest because they are as cheap as Missouri, or Nebraska or Oklahoma or Harvard and Yale doesn't mean anything to me. If the cost of other colleges go up 15 percent it's not okay that KU's went up 10%. Yet that is the game these schools want to play. In the end the only losers are the students leaving campus with insurmountable debt that will take years or a life time to pay off and an expectation that the taxpayer should cover these costs. Every school in Kansas needs routine financial rectal exams with an expectation that their costs be reversed. All KU has do do the fund the new medical building is call up their endowment group and write the check. Done deal no cost to the taxpayer. Walk around Allen Field House and the Football Stadium, and other locations on campus if you have any doubt. It is pretty difficult to expect the taxpayer to fund a new medical building for KUMED when the University of Kansas main project in the news is a 25 million dollar recreational center. Which is it more doctors or more fun and games?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

I agree that the amount of money spent on athletics is out of any sensible proportion, but those funds are unavailable for any other purpose.

I suspect your main objection to funding KU for anything is because it's in that dark spiritual place called Lawrence-- in other words, you're motivated by punitive pettiness.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 2 months ago

First off, student loans MUST be paid off in 10 years. No defaulting. Second, the cost of going to Harvard and Yale is astronomically more expensive than KU. Try close to $40,000 a year. Also, your argument about improvements to athletic facilities is invalid. KU Athletics is a corporate entity that uses ticket sales, sponsorships, and donations through KU Endowment to building their facilities. The average student doesn't see a dime of any of that money. Rock Chalk Park is not going to make my tuition skyrocket. While I don't agree with how they're spending that money, it's not mine. I don't even buy student tickets for athletic events. So punishing the university and students for something we have pretty much no say in is ridiculous. KUMC has almost nothing to do with athletics. They are entirely focused on academics and producing excellent medical professionals for Kansas. KUMC students are accepted separately from those in Lawrence. Even nursing students who start in Lawrence have to apply and be accepted to the KU Nursing School at KUMC. Not all of those who start at KU will finish at KUMC. The Med School won't even take all of the pre-med students from Lawrence. Hurting KUMed only hurts the medical profession in Kansas. KU Athletics won't even get a paper cut if that medical building isn't built. They might have to hire doctors trained elsewhere.

notajayhawk 5 years, 2 months ago

"Second, the cost of going to Harvard and Yale is astronomically more expensive than KU."

I could be wrong, but the way I read kansasfaithful's comment is that the sole justification for high costs shouldn't be that other schools cost more.

Miles Nease 5 years, 2 months ago

I have a better idea for Senator Arpke. Stop funding Washburn! They are a municipal university that offers nothing of value to the state, except a law school for those who can't get accepted to KU. According to the last data that I found, Washburn received $11 million of state money in 2011. I'm sure that amount is higher today. There is your $10 million for the new KU facility. Problem solved.

voevoda 5 years, 2 months ago

Full audits are very costly. There would need to be compelling evidence of fraud or mismanagement in order to justify an exceptional process of this sort.

Alyosha 5 years, 2 months ago

One does wonder if the editorially board that endorsed Brownback now regrets their endorsement.

We all have regrets; to err is human.

So the important question is, what are the Kansans who endorsed and helped elect Brownback and the current slate of legislators going to do to mitigate the damage being done to the state?

Was it worth it?

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