Wichita — Kansas University is requesting an additional $4.5 million in state funding to double the class size of the School of Medicine in Wichita and to fund physician faculty.
KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little made the request before the Board of Regents on Wednesday morning in Topeka.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers cut nearly $4 million from KU’s budget, part of its budget decision to cut funding at virtually all state universities.
Just a few months ago in April, Gray-Little told the regents that the impending cuts to higher education could force KU to eliminate the medical school in Salina and reduce the one in Wichita back to a two-year program.
However, Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor for the KU Medical Center, said those comments were made in response a proposal being considered by the Kansas House at that time. He said some House members were proposing greater cuts than what actually occurred. Now, he says, KU does not plan to cut the Salina program and can maintain it with current funds.
The Wichita campus had a baseline allocation of $14.9 million in general use funds in fiscal year 2013, according to the regents’ meeting agenda. The Wichita campus budget was decreased by about $500,000 for fiscal year 2014.
The additional funding would expand the Wichita campus to 56 first- and second-year students.
“We’re obviously excited by the opportunity to increase our capacity to provide doctors for Kansas,” said Denice Bruce, director of public affairs for KU School of Medicine-Wichita.
The Wichita campus opened in 1971 to provide clinical training for third- and fourth-year medical students. The school also facilitates clinical trials and research.
In 2011, the program expanded to a full four-year campus in an effort to alleviate a shortage of physicians in the state. That expansion was completed without additional state funding.
According to the agenda, overall budgets at both the Wichita and Salina campuses will still be reduced, and deans at both campuses are determining how to absorb those cuts without affecting enrollment.
Some of the additional funding being requested now would go toward faculty physicians at the university.
“As physicians face more pressure to increase the efficiency of their practices, it has become financially untenable to train medical students while also trying to treat as many patients as possible,” according to the agenda.