State leaders and higher education officials Monday praised legislative passage of $25 million in bonds to help construct a proposed $75 million health education building.
Noting that the facility will increase the number of doctors trained in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback said, "That is something we desperately need."
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a physician, said the building shows the KU Medical Center is "moving forward as one of the best places to get a medical education."
KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the promise of state-backed bonds will help ensure more private contributions. "This is a critical first step" to launch the project, she said. Gray-Little said she hoped the building could be finished within three years.
KU officials say a new health education building is needed to train more health care professionals and accommodate a modern curriculum.
The currently used Orr-Major building, which opened in 1976, has $5.3 million in deferred maintenance and its rooms are designed for large lectures instead of the now preferred small-group classes, according to KU. It is also at capacity with a class size of 175 students.
With the new building, KU will increase the class size by 25 to 200 students in Kansas City, and another 25 students at other campuses.
Beka Mullen, of Overland Park, in her fourth year of medical school at KU, said the importance of the new building "cannot be overstated."
She said the new building will allow more interactive classrooms and superior technology that is needed to compete with other medical schools in attracting the best students.
The bill passed by the Legislature earlier this month includes $25 million in bonding authority for a new building.
KU has identified $15 million in internal funds for the project, which means it needs about $35 million more.
Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Fred Logan noted that officials have been working on the proposed building for several years.
"Nothing great in government ever happens quickly," he said.
The measure also includes restoration of many of the cuts to universities that were made by Brownback and the Legislature last year. While the bonding authority was included in the appropriations bill, the Legislature did sweep $24 million in a FICA refund related to the medical school.
Also at the event were Dr. Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor of KU Medical Center; Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Fred Logan; Regents Vice Chairman Kenny Wilk; and Regent Ann Murguia and several legislators.