As you prepare for Thanksgiving Break, I want to express my gratitude to you for not just choosing to work at a university, but for choosing to work at a public university.
Public universities have played a special role in our nation ever since the first were chartered not long after the United States gained independence. The founders understood that America would only grow and prosper if it had outstanding universities that could educate the next generation of leaders and create the inventions and ideas that would drive progress.
Over the years, more public universities were founded, many spurred on by the Morrill Acts creating land-grant institutions. Barriers that prevented many students from attending—whether because of their gender or the color of their skin—were diminished, expanding the promise of education to even greater numbers. And the American middle class began a decades-long period of growth thanks to the GI Bill’s support for veterans.
We are the inheritors of a long, noble tradition of public higher education. We uphold the ideals of public universities as we strive to ensure a college degree remains accessible to all who are ready to earn one, when our service in communities helps them become healthier and more vibrant, and when our discoveries and new ideas change lives and, by extension, the world around us.
Granted, these are challenging times for public universities. Kansas is certainly not alone in seeing a dramatic decline in state support for higher education over the past 15 years. And despite many states reinvesting in their universities, overall funding for higher education nationally has yet to return to pre-recession levels, and here in Kansas the prospects for that happening anytime soon are dim.
Our university has faced challenging times before. Yet in the face of these challenges our predecessors never gave up on the mission of this university, because they knew, like the founders of our nation and the founders of our state, that public higher education is vital to a prosperous democracy. So as we face challenges, we will remain focused on our bold aspirations, and we will continue to uphold our responsibilities to our students and society.
I’m thankful for your commitment to our university, and to its public mission. I hope you have a wonderful break filled with family and friends.