Financial reckoning

Legislature partially restores funding; KU plans to correct structural deficits

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Rock Chalk Review | Hoch seal

The Kansas Legislature reduced base-budget funding for the state’s six public universities by 2.5% for fiscal year 2022. Gov. Laura Kelly, who had proposed a 5.5% cut in January, signed the legislation.

The Kansas Board of Regents had asked the governor and the Legislature to maintain stable base-budget funding at last year’s level for all universities, but appropriations fell short of that goal. 

KU, Kansas State and Wichita State universities heard encouraging news earlier in the session, when the Legislature easily approved the Regents’ second priority: renewal of the Kansas Engineering Initiative Act. Gov. Kelly added her signature to extend the program for another 10 years. The original 2011 initiative aimed to double the number of annual engineering graduates for a combined total of 1,365 engineers by 2021. The state funded each of the three engineering schools $3.5 million annually to expand, which each school matched. In 2020, the three schools graduated nearly 1,700 new engineers. 

In the omnibus budget bill passed May 9, lawmakers added $53 million to the public higher education system to partially comply with the U.S. Department of Education’s stipulation that states show “maintenance of efforts” in funding education to receive another round of COVID relief funds. Kelly signed the bill May 21, but at press time, KU’s portion of the $53 million had not been determined.

According to federal calculations, Kansas needs to add $105 million for higher education in each of the next two years, but legislators hope to receive a waiver by showing “good faith” in restoring half the funds. The U.S. Department of Education on May 11 released $36 billion in emergency funding under the American Rescue Plan’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. KU’s total allocation is $41.12 million, including:

—$20.63 million (minimum for student aid)

—$20.49 million (maximum for institution)

In early May, KU announced cuts to academic and administrative units ranging from 1% to 12% beginning July 1 as part of an overall shift in financial management to correct a structural budget deficit on the Lawrence campus caused by the state’s disinvestment, decreasing enrollment and other factors. Jeff DeWitt, KU’s new chief financial officer, explained his plan to resolve the ongoing shortfall in a video with Chancellor Doug Girod and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer, j’82, c’86, g’88, PhD’92; to watch, visit rockcha.lk/FinancialUpdate.rockcha.lk/FinancialUpdate.

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