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WSU says budget cuts hurting tech plans

Published on -10/27/2013, 9:35 AM

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Recent state budget cuts are hurting Wichita State University's plans to become a technology center for south central Kansas, WSU President John Bardo said.

"I had put together a $1.8 million innovation fund," Bardo told members of the House and Senate budget committees on Wednesday. "Because the university is so underfunded compared to other schools . I gave up my $1.8 million."

Bardo said he had to choose between the innovation fund and making deep cuts in existing departments' budgets or steep hikes in tuition, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/16B7qL4).

"I couldn't see how I could cut the academic departments and ask them for any more, given the level of funding that they have right now compared to our peers," he said.

Bardo made his remarks to lawmakers during a bus tour of state colleges, universities and technical schools. They were joined at the WSU stop by several local legislators. In June, lawmakers chopped $33 million for higher education from this year's budget and $32.8 million from next year's budget.

Throughout the tour, presentations focused on the university's cooperation with and research support for local industry, especially aircraft.

Bardo outlined his plans to position the university and community to take advantage of its location in an economic region anchored by Dallas-Fort Worth and that runs along Interstate 35 from south central Texas to Kansas City.

"The future is in entrepreneurship and innovation," he said.

He said funding is needed to help turn a significant portion of the campus into a technology park where the university can expand its ongoing program of transferring WSU-developed research to the private sector. The idea is to nurture "gazelles," a term for high-tech startup companies that grow rapidly, he said.

He said that would help break a local cycle in which jobs are available but don't pay very well and are not very stable.

"Our intent is to move private enterprises onto this campus as fast as we can to promote innovation and technology," Bardo said. "This golf course you're seeing out here, if we're successful, will disappear entirely."

WSU made a strong case for funding, said Ty Masterson, R-Andover and chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. He said he was impressed with WSU's efforts to move students into jobs.

Masterson also said he's not hearing much sentiment among his peers for additional cuts or a major increase in funding in the coming year.

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