Kansas Regents Say Five Percent Budget Cuts Would Cut Deep

Sep 27, 2016

If Kansas is forced to reduce its budget by five percent over the next two fiscal years, higher education in the state could take a $56.4 million hit.

That's on top of $47.9 million in reductions the previous two years.

The data comes from budget documents submitted to the Governor's office by the six Kansas Board of Regents universities.

On Tuesday the Associated Press reported that Brownback's Budget Director, Shawn Sullivan, sent an email to cabinet secretaries saying that the governor isn't planning to propose across-the-board cuts in their budgets next year. However, he did not rule out targeted budget cuts.

Sullivan asked all state departments to submit documents anticipating a five percent reduction in each of the next two fiscal years. But Sullivan and the Governor's office refused to make those public, citing an exemption in the Kansas Open Records Act.

However, the Board of Regents, independent from the governor, decided to do so.

The documents released by the Regents paint a bleak picture for higher education should the governor cut five percent from their budgets in fiscal 2018 and 2019.

Kansas State University, its veterinary school and extension service stand to lose $15.8 million over those two years. In its budget submission, K-State says "further reductions in state funding will degrade the university's ability to fulfill its land grant mission" and "more financial burden will be placed on students in the form of increased tuition and fees."

The University of Kansas and the KU Med Center would have to cut a combined $23.2 million under the five percent reduction scenario. 

KU did not attach a similar narrative to its submission, but did release a statement. "While we fulfilled the request to provide these planning scenarios, we would obviously prefer that the Governor not make additional cuts to higher education,” Tim Carboni Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs wrote.

Wichita State University says it could have to cut $7 million total over the next two years which it says would "diminish the university's ability" to increase higher education attainment and improve the "economic alignment with the ever changing needs of business and industry."

Emporia State University's submission sounds even more dire. A $3 million reduction in 2018 and 2019 would "erode the University's programs" along with "diminishing attractiveness to prospective and current students." ESU also predicts layoffs and leaving vacant positions open.

Sam Zeff  covers education for KCUR and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.