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Free Enterprise - Academic Style


KU is one of the larger employers in the state. It has a total annual budget of $1.24 Billion from many sources. The state’s direct contribution is about 20%. Tuition provides another 20%. The question for discussion is whether the services provided to the citizens of the state given this investment are worth the half billion paid. That is a fair question.

The university seeks to provide a world class facility and curriculum and structures the environment to do so. That costs. Some of our elected leaders seem to feel that it is too costly and have made arbitrary cuts. There is, however, another option. We could tailor our overall curriculum to address topics of interest to the state and strongly support them. We could also provide adequate educational opportunities for the rest of our offerings.

I have never understood how our state has managed to create an environment where the service provider defines the level of service to be provided, the environment in which it will be delivered and just sends a bill. In my world I define the level of service I want, the environment in which it is to be delivered and pay the resulting bill. If I don’t like what I get at that price I can pay more or shut up and say thank you.

This discussion IMHO should occur between the Regents and our state government (legislature and governor) with a goal of finding a level of higher education appropriate to a state with the overall revenue stream of Kansas. We just may not be able to compete with a state like California with many times our population and revenues.

I am very sympathetic toward our faculty. We owe them a clear statement of expectations and rewards. We should not be “sending signals” by cutting revenue with no clear agreement as to what is expected. That represents a failure of leadership at the state level. If you do not want to pay for something then define what you are willing to support – and accept the outcome. Do not continually ask people to do more with less to cover the political fallout of your choices.

It is not all about business and never has been. Lower taxes will not in the long run attract the type of well-paying commerce we want. The environment in which the services are rendered is very important. Education (all) is an important part of that environment.


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