Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget cuts, revealed Wednesday, target higher education and will have the most impact on the state’s two largest universities.
Spending for the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public colleges, will fall by about $30 million. The reduction equates to an approximately 4 percent cut.
As Brownback unveiled the cuts, the universities put forward proposed tuition increases that will raise costs for students. The higher education reductions are part of a broader package of nearly $100 million in cuts the governor is making to help balance the state budget.
Budget legislation approved by Brownback provides a formula for divvying up the cut among the state’s schools. Instead of an equal across-the-board percentage cut, as has been done in the past, universities will be cut in a manner that saddles the University of Kansas and Kansas State University with the largest percentage decreases.
KU and K-State will both see their funding fall by 5.1 percent — about $7 million for KU and $5 million for K-State. By comparison, Wichita State University will see a 3.8 percent reduction. Fort Hays State University was cut by more than $1 million.
“We have advocated all year for stable funding for higher education. Unfortunately, this $30.7 million allotment represents another cut to higher education and disproportionately affects KU and K-State, despite the tremendous role they play in growing the Kansas economy,” said Tim Caboni, KU vice chancellor for public affairs.
“Given the magnitude of the $10.7 million reduction to KU, we will need a few days to carefully analyze its effects, which will be significant.”
On Wednesday, KU proposed a tuition hike of 4 percent; K-State put forward a 5 percent increase along with WSU. News of the cuts came to the Kansas Board of Regents during its regular meeting as state schools were proposing the tuition increases.
Shane Bangerter, the board’s chairman, said the regents were told to expect between a 3 percent and 5 percent cut. The governor’s cut falls around 4 percent, but the board had hoped for cuts closer to 3 percent.
“This is certainly not good news,” he said.
Bangerter said as schools raise tuition they will have to wrestle with maintaining affordability while still paying for high-quality programs.
“You have to provide an excellent education,” he said. “I wish I had better news, but we will all deal with it and come out the best we can.”
Tuition and fee increases were in line with the state’s cuts. University leaders said the hikes would go toward a variety of expenses, including high salaries for faculty and staff, paying general utilities and funding programs.
At Kansas State University, tuition overtook the general fund as the main source of revenue in 2010. April Mason, provost and senior vice president, said the increase reliance on tuition puts pressure on state schools.
“We don’t want to pass these things on to our students, but we have to maintain the quality of our programs,” she said.
Emporia State University president Allison Garrett echoed concerns from other schools about increasing tuition. Schools face a tension, she said, between funding quality education and still being affordable to students.
“One of the things we struggle with is attracting and retaining high-caliber faculty and staff,” she said. “In an era of declining state support that becomes increasingly challenging.”