Don't gut higher education in Kansas
The Kansas City Star
Gov. Sam Brownback wants businesses to locate, grow and prosper in the state of Kansas.
That won’t happen without a ready source of smart, knowledgeable workers. And the best way to create such a pipeline is to make sure the state’s colleges and universities stay strong.
Higher education supporters in Kansas are optimistic that Brownback shares that view and that his budget for the next fiscal year will hold funding for colleges and universities steady, despite a template proposed by the governor’s budget director that cuts higher education funding by 8 percent.
Unfortunately, Brownback and the Legislature last session went overboard in their mistaken belief that the fastest route to prosperity is draconian income tax cuts. They lowered rates by too much, and now Kansas faces monumental financial problems. All state-funded institutions and people who depend on services are properly nervous about the prospect of more cuts.
To fend off the state budget axe, colleges and universities must continue to prove themselves both essential and efficient. Much of the growth in Kansas in recent years has taken place around its universities, as companies have moved in to take advantage of research opportunities that begin on the campuses.
The University of Kansas began a top-to-bottom review of all of its campuses and operations in 2011, searching for savings. Many of those efficiencies are now being put into place.
Fort Hays State University has been a leader in innovative cost-cutting. The university is now in the process of planning for construction of two wind turbines, which its leaders say should eventually supply virtually all of the campus’ power.
Those are commendable efforts that should continue. And Brownback and the Legislature must do their part by holding the line on funding for the colleges and universities.