Lawmakers restore operating funds, add new investments in higher education
The Kansas Legislature in late April approved the most heartening higher education budget in years, investing in essential operations, infrastructure, need-based student scholarships, faculty and staff salary increases, and economic development projects.
Although lawmakers did not fully fund all of Gov. Laura Kelly’s recommendations, they approved spending for many of the key priorities she highlighted when the legislative session began in January. In his May 4 weekly video update to the campus, Chancellor Doug Girod said the budget “is still looking like the best higher education budget we’ve had in recent memory. We are optimistic that it will get signed, and then we’ll have a much better understanding of where we are, but fingers crossed, so far, so good.”
As Kansas Alumni went to press, Kelly had not yet signed the budget; lawmakers planned to return to Topeka May 23 to debate non-budget measures before final adjournment.
The Legislature’s fiscal year 2023 state budget includes:
—a $37.5 million increase to base-budget operations funding for the six universities; the Kansas Board of Regents had supported Kelly’s proposal to restore operations funding to the pre-pandemic levels by adding $45.7 million in exchange for holding tuition flat.
—5% salary increases for state employees, including KU faculty and staff;
—$19 million for need-based scholarships for students at all public and private colleges and
universities in the state, to be matched by funds from each school;
—$35 million for deferred maintenance projects, to be matched by universities;
—$10 million for a demolition fund;
—$20 million for information technology security enhancements;
— $135 million for various economic development projects in coordination with institutions across the entire Regents system.
The economic development investments affirm higher education’s important role in driving the state’s economy, Girod said, and he thanked members of Jayhawks for Higher Education and others who urged support for colleges and universities: “We thank everyone who advocated on our behalf with the Legislature and the governor’s office to drive the higher education agenda for the state of Kansas.”
—Jennifer Jackson Sanner
Photograph by Steve Puppe