Topeka Stunned by legislative cuts to higher education, the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday discussed how to get the Legislature to change direction and restore the funding.
Regent Kenny Wilk, of Lansing, said perhaps higher education officials weren't doing a good job getting the message across that improving higher education will improve the state's economy.
Wilk said one of the main goals of the regents is to increase the number of Kansans who have a post-secondary credential from 50 percent to 60 percent.
"That objective is one of the most important things we can do for our state," he said.
And, he said, achieving that goal will cost money.
Republican legislative leaders, however, have gone in the opposite direction.
They approved a 2-year budget that cuts $44 million in state funding to higher education. Gov. Sam Brownback had proposed flat funding for higher education, but he signed the budget cuts into law.
Mary Jane Stankiewicz, a spokeswoman for the regents, said the message that higher education produces better jobs "is still sound." She added, "We just have to expand our messenger base."
On Wednesday, the regents approved $34 million in tuition and fee increases at the six regents universities. The board members slammed the Legislature for the cuts, saying much of the increased tuition was needed to cover those reductions.
At Thursday's meeting, Stankiewicz read a quote from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, who called the regents' criticisms "baloney."
After hearing that, Regents Chair Tim Emert, of Independence, said, "No comment."
The regents will conduct a work session next month on higher education's next budget request.
Incoming chairman, Fred Logan of Leawood said, "We think all of those cuts need to be restored."
He added, "You cannot have economic growth if you are cutting university budgets. You are not going to have economic growth in Kansas if the University of Kansas Medical Center is getting hammered the way that it did. It is a very important engine of economic growth."
KUMC was cut $8.3 million in the budget.