The University of Kansas has special responsibilities, including educating leaders who contribute to the prosperity of their communities and conducting research that leads to new ideas, new products and new treatments. In these and countless other ways, we contribute to the well-being of our state.
Our continued ability to meet these responsibilities is threatened by budget cuts being considered by the Kansas Legislature. The proposed cuts, totaling $20.3 million in the House-passed budget and a smaller amount in the budget passed by the Senate, come on top of more than a decade of disinvestment in public universities. They also ignore Governor Brownback’s recommendation of flat funding for higher education next year.
Because of this disinvestment, if these cuts become law we would have no choice but to make significant cutbacks in our academic programs. This would hurt students, as well as the broader economy, which can’t grow without our graduates. These cutbacks would affect all campuses.
Lawrence would have to eliminate at least 38 faculty positions, meaning we could not replace faculty who have departed for other universities. With an improving national economy, we face an ever-greater threat that other universities on the hunt for new talent will poach our brightest teachers and researchers. If budget cuts make it impossible to retain our best faculty, we essentially become a “farm team” for universities in other states.
The effects on academic programs would be particularly acute at the KU Medical Center, where various aspects of the House’s budget add up to a more than 10 percent cut. Despite Kansas’ shortage of doctors, nurses and health professionals, which KUMC has been working hard in recent years to address, the proposed budget cuts would force us to reduce our capacity to educate these crucial providers.
Scholarship and discovery, which contributes to the health, vitality and prosperity of Kansas, would also be damaged, as fewer faculty members means fewer research projects and fewer grants coming into the state. This would be on top of the effects of the federal budget sequester.
Any cutbacks or changes to programs we are forced to make will be made in accordance with Bold Aspirations. Deans and other university leaders were asked several months ago to make contingency plans for just such an occurrence.
It is not inevitable that our budget will be cut. Legislators are still negotiating the budget and will not complete their work until they return in early May. We continue to work with alumni in Jayhawks for Higher Education, as well as business leaders and policymakers.
Policymakers from across the spectrum agree that economic growth is vital. Yet Kansas cannot prosper without its universities, and its universities cannot contribute to the public good without public support.