Topeka — Legislators are seeking extensive information from universities in preparation for campus visits next month.
After cutting public universities' budgets during the past legislative session, Republican legislative leaders have scheduled information-gathering meetings at campuses statewide, including Kansas University and the KU Medical Center.
Last week, legislators submitted 81 questions that they want answered before the meetings.
Regents spokeswoman Mary Jane Stankiewicz said Thursday that it will be "painful" to get all the answers collected in time, but once put together "we will have some good information."
The questions, obtained by the Lawrence Journal-World, seek information on a wide range of topics, including an in-depth look at school finances, academic performance of students, faculty and staff and partnerships with community colleges.
For example, the legislators are asking, "What are the institution's plans to reduce tuition costs to make Kansas very competitive (attract the brightest with discount tuition, grants)?" Another question is, "What are the institution's plans to reduce fixed costs and staff costs in light of declining enrollment?"
Stankiewicz said there had been angst earlier in the higher education community about the meetings, but that now everyone wants to "put our best foot forward."
Regent Chairman Fred Logan of Leawood said he looked forward to the meetings so that legislators could hear what post-secondary schools are accomplishing. "Our higher education institutions are doing a great job," he said.
Last session, the Republican-dominated Legislature cut $34.3 million in state funding over two years to the public universities, making Kansas one of the few states in the country to reduce higher education funding. Regents said the cuts were in part responsible for tuition increases.
Gov. Sam Brownback signed the cuts into law but has since said he will work to restore the funding.
Today, the regents unanimously recommended restoration of those cuts during the next legislative session, which starts in January, and indicated another top priority would be pushing again for construction of a $75 million health education building at the Kansas University Medical Center.
But some legislative leaders have criticized the schools over spending, salaries and fast-rising tuition.
Members of the House and Senate budget-writing committees will tour the state's public universities, a community college and a technology school over a six-day period in October.
In the questions submitted, legislators are wanting the schools to detail sources of income including revenue from endowments, research grants and patents.
They also want to know if there is a process to eliminate majors that have few students, and how the schools measure faculty productivity.
Stankiewicz said higher education officials will put the information together before the meetings start Oct. 22.
Logan said he viewed the questions from legislators as an opportunity to share valuable information.