Lawmakers increase Kansas higher education funding by $28.4 million in proposed state budget

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, February 2014.

State universities will expect to receive more funding from the state next year after the Kansas Legislature approved a statewide budget on Saturday.

Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, who serves on the Senate’s higher education funding subcommittee, told the Journal-World Monday that the approved budget included the $28.4 million increase to higher education in the state. The budget now awaits Gov. Laura Kelly’s signature to become law.

Along with Kelly’s budget recommendation to restore $8.9 million of general higher education funding, the lawmakers added an additional $19.5 million of new money, Hawk said.

Kelly’s restoration proposal was intended to move the higher education funding level back to what it was in 2016, prior to a $30.7 million cut that then-Gov. Sam Brownback made to help offset the state’s budget crisis. Lawmakers restored $6 million of that amount in 2017 and another $15 million in 2018.

If Kelly approves the budget, the universities would receive the new funding for the 2020 fiscal year, which begins in July.

How much the University of Kansas will receive of the new funding is not yet clear. The Kansas Board of Regents will need to allocate the funding to its six universities through its funding formula, said Shirley Morrow, a fiscal analyst for the Kansas Legislative Research Department.

Prior to the legislative session, Kansas Board of Regents — which governs KU, K-State and other state universities — asked lawmakers to increase higher education funding by $50 million. Blake Flanders, president of the Regents, told lawmakers during the budget building process that the board’s requested $50 million increase would help the state universities keep tuition flat.

Tuition at state universities has steadily increased in recent years to cover cuts of funding from the state and inflation. Since fiscal year 2009, Kansas’ state universities have seen about a $69 million drop in state funding, according to the Kansas Board of Regents. Additionally, KU is currently facing a $20 million budget cut.

Although the Legislature’s approved budget does not give the Regents the full increase it had requested, Regents chair Dennis Mullin said the lawmakers were on the right track.

“I’m really thrilled the Legislature gave us what they did,” he said. “It’s a little less than we asked for, but it’s a great stride in the right direction. It’s the best (funding) we’ve received in many years.”

Contact Dylan Lysen

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