Kansas' higher education board plans to lobby Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican-led Legislature for a comprehensive $95.3 million increase in state tax funding to the 32 universities and colleges within the system.
An even $50 million would go to the six public universities in an arrangement that some members of the Kansas Board of Regents hope could result in a second year of tuition freezes for resident undergraduate students. Last year, the board sought $50 million more for universities and was awarded $35 million, including $12 million for employer salary increases.
The proposed budget would allow Kansas community and technical colleges to share an additional $13.5 million with a big chunk of it accounting for growth in a popular statewide program in which high school students earn college credit. A year ago, the board sought an increase of $26 million for the two-year schools and received $9 million.
"When you look at state funding, it's crucial to keep our institutions accessible," said Elaine Frisbie, vice president for finance and administration with the Kansas Board of Regents.
In addition, the Board of Regents voted Wednesday to advance a blueprint dedicating $10 million of the increase to broadening need-based student financial aid. The additional dollars would be leveraged with private contributions, officials said.
The request also featured $5.6 million for a pilot program to draw high school students into a college-level English 101 course. There have been discussions about developing a 15 credit-hour initiative for high school students.
"I think it's a great first step," said board chairman Shane Bangerter, of Dodge City.
The proposal would earmark $10 million for deferred university maintenance projects and $1 million would be funneled to Washburn University in Topeka.
The Excel in Career Technical Education Initiative launched at the behest of then-Gov. Sam Brownback cost taxpayers $32 million last year, but the total could surpass $36 million in the current fiscal year. Of the $13.5 million request for community and technical schools, $8.5 million would be used to solidify financial support for the Excel program.
"Certainly, this has been one of the most beneficial programs that has been envisioned and put in place in maybe the history of my entire career," said Shellaine Kiblinger, a member of the board who serves as superintendent of Cherryvale schools.
A contingency of $5 million would be set aside on the assumption student interest among high school students in earning college credit in technical programs continued to rise. In the past, college and technical schools delivered the instruction to high school students but weren't fully compensated by the state.
"Our main concern is we want to see our colleges get reimbursed 100% for this service they're doing," said regent Mark Hutton, of Wichita.
The board's unified request for the system was for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2020. The proposal goes first to the governor's office, who will make budget recommendations in January to the 2020 Legislature.
The state's public higher education system represents a $3.7 billion enterprise with general state appropriations covering 22% of total revenue.