Higher Education Institutions Faced With Tough Budget Cuts

By  | 

The budget outlook for Kansas' higher education is a bitter one. With proposed budget cuts, funding for state universities, community colleges and technical colleges would be reduced by $114 million for Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010.

The economy causing personal finance problems is one reason the state has had to adjust the budget to make up for loss of revenue.

"Certainly ppl will probably buy less, new car sales have been off markedly, that kind of thing," said Duane Goosen, State Budget Director. "And that will affect sales tax receipts and other economic activity in Kansas."

The state is asking the board of regents to cut three percent of the higher education system's budget. The governor doesn't want to take away from K-12, which makes up between 51 and 52 percent of the state's general fund.

"It's impossible to tax your way out of a recession, so it has to be expenditures and while those expenditure reductions will be painful, it still has to be done," said Washburn University president, Jerry Farley.

A few years ago when the state needed money like this, the state universities took a $44 million hit.

Now the state is looking to cut $24.3 million in FY 2009 and $90.1 million in FY 2010.

Cuts are necessary to make up the gap between receipts and expenditures. "It would require 15% across the board cuts to every state general fund item - higher education, k-12, medicaid, everything," said Goosen. "We cannot do that. So the solution will have to be something different."

Universities are already at work to find the solution in their own schools.

"We will make the decisions that impact students the least," said Dr. Farley. "We won't want to adversely impact the quality of education that a student receives. A student that comes this year or next year should deserve the same education as a student that came two years ago."

Dr. Farley says the university will not replace currently open positions to help save money. They'll also look at reducing utility, travel and equipment costs. "We will reduce this budget in a way that - at least initially - we don't anticipate there will be any layoffs," said Dr. Farley.

"It's not a great picture at all," said Goosen. "I wish it weren't so, but it's a tough one. We will get through it. We got through the last one and we've gotten through others. We'll find ways to resolve it. But there are only hard decisions ahead, no easy ones at all."

The board will consider the recommendations and put them to an agenda vote Thursday. After that, Goosen will collect feedback and hear appeals. Then sometime after Thanksgiving, he said they'll get with the Governor and work on constructing next year's budget.

Goosen is sure the tough economic times affecting this budget will cause it to be a big issue in the legislature. "This budget and how to resolve it - what to do and should we go into school finance or not - those kinds of questions are going to be the prime issue of the whole legislative session, I'm certain."