Higher Education In Kansas, Wichita Stands To Lose Millions In Funding

By: Natasha Trelfa Email
By: Natasha Trelfa Email

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Higher education in Kansas stands to take a $114 million hit over the next two years. While everyone from Wichita State University to community colleges can expect cuts, officials said they've already spent months planning for this very problem.

"Everything that we spend is up for reconsideration," said Donald Beggs, the Wichita State University President.

Earlier this year, Governor Kathleen Sebelius warned the state's higher education institutions to prepare for at least two percent in budget cuts in 2009, possibly more in 2010.

"With the economy at the national level taking such a turn for the worse, we anticipated that the cuts would come," said Donna Shank, who's on the Kansas Board of Regents.

Now, the Kansas Board of Regents and school officials are working around a three percent cut in 2009, more than $24 million, and another four percent or $90 million the following year.

"In the end, we're not going to be able to do some of the things that, from a growth perspective, we wanted to do," said Beggs.

The cuts mean programs like the KU Pharmacy expansion, Wichita Graduate Medical Education and aviation infrastructure at the Jabara campus could face tough times. Another area taking a funding hit: deferred maintenance progress, nearly $15 million worth.

"Exactly what we're having to do now is part of the reason we have the deferred maintenance," said Beggs.

The cuts aren't catching schools off guard. WSU's budget is $212 million, of which $75 million comes from the state. The university keeps at least a two percent funding reserve at all times. Thanks to one of the highest enrollment rates ever this semester, it has even more.

WSU is looking at forgoing equipment purchases and evaluating what positions it can avoid filling, as long as it doesn't disrupt students' education.

"What we're doing is making sure what we don't do is affect the core of the university or its mission," said Beggs.

It's a task officials say is going to make the coming years difficult, but at least they're all in the same boat.

"We're all going to have to share in the sacrifice and we're prepared to do that, but it's going to have consequences," said Shank.

WSU was expecting to get nearly 11 percent of the $15 million for deferred maintenance next year. It has 32 projects slated for maintenance improvement.

School officials are expected to meet with the Board of Regents next week to discuss the cuts.


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