Topeka — Members of the Kansas Board of Regents said Wednesday they will seek restoration of higher-education budget cuts from the Kansas Legislature, but they backed off a proposal to keep university tuition flat in return for the state funding.
Regents Chairman Fred Logan said the tuition proposal would not be part of the regents' budget request submitted to Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature for the next session, which starts in January.
"We decided to wait and see what happens," Logan, of Leawood, said after a brief budget discussion. The board will take final action on its budget request Thursday.
Last month, the regents discussed the possibility of keeping tuition flat next year if the Legislature restored $34.3 million in state funding cuts over two years to the public universities.
But Republican legislative leaders, who had pushed for the budget cuts during the last legislative session, blasted the proposal, saying the board was trying to hold students and their parents hostage for more state funding.
Logan said the criticism wasn't the reason for abandoning the proposal. He said the regents wanted to see what Brownback proposed for higher education and how the Legislature responded.
Brownback has said he wants to restore the funding cuts. But legislative leaders have been critical of higher-education spending, and have scheduled a series of information-gathering meetings next month on university campuses.
The cuts represented an across-the-board reduction and salary reductions that varied greatly in percentage among the universities. KU's cut totaled about $5.3 million (a total of 3.8 percent) over two years, while the Kansas University Medical Center cuts totaled $8.3 million (8.2 percent) over two years.
In addition to restoring the cut funds, regents indicated that their top priority would be pushing again for construction of a $75 million health education building at KUMC.
The regents made a request last year for the building to be financed through a combination of state funding, a FICA refund and private donations. But the Legislature's budget made no commitment for state funding.
The regents also are asking for $8 million in new state funding for technical education.
The various schools have made their own funding requests for specific items, but Logan said he doubted all of those would be approved by the Legislature and Brownback. However, he said, getting those requests before policymakers will set the stage for budget talks in future years.
In the new budget request before the regents, KU also is seeking $4.5 million to "stabilize" the expansion to a 4-year curriculum at the School of Medicine in Wichita, $2.8 million for course redesign and online technologies, and $2.5 million for an institute that will be focused on promoting chemical biology research and drug discovery and development.