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Regents Name Richard Myers New Kansas State President


Richard Myers, a retired four-star Air Force general and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, will be Kansas State University's president as it wrestles with budget problems and the possibility that students, staff and visitors will be allowed to carry concealed guns into its buildings next year.

The Kansas Board of Regents on Tuesday voted unanimously to promote Myers from interim president, a job he's held since April at the land-grant university in Manhattan, which has about 24,000 students.

Myers is the second high-profile retired military officer to be appointed to a major higher education leadership job within two years. The University of Texas' 15-campus system early in 2015 hired retired Adm. William McRaven as chancellor; he is a former Navy Seal who led the U.S. Special Operations Command.

The Kansas regents' appointment of the 74-year-old Myers, a Kansas State University alum who served as joint chiefs chairman under President George W. Bush, drew immediate bipartisan praise. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said Myers is invested in helping Kansas students and will bring "unique leadership."

Myers and the university will be dealing immediately with potential spending cuts, with the state facing a projected shortfall of $349 million in its current budget. Myers also reiterated his opposition to a state law requiring state colleges to allow adults 21 and older to carry concealed guns starting in July if their buildings don't have security measures such as metal detectors.

"Well, I guess the honeymoon is over," Myers joked after the board's unanimous vote on his appointment.

Myers replaced former president Kirk Schulz, who left in March to become Washington State University's president. The board and the university didn't immediately say how much Myers would be paid as president, with details expected to be finalized by early next week. His promotion is official Sunday.

Myers graduated from Kansas State in 1965 and joined the military through the ROTC program at the university. After his retirement from the military, Myers was a part-time professor of military history and leadership before being named interim president. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2005.

"I'm just really excited that he wanted to stay," said state Rep. Sydney Carlin, a Manhattan Democrat.

Myers said land-grant universities such as Kansas State have a long history of offering access to higher education to needy and first-time students, and he said providing access remains a core mission.

"We do that pretty well, but it's getting harder and harder to do that with the budget situation," Myers said. "We have some challenges ahead of us."

The amount of money Kansas State has received from the state has shrunk from $163 million in the 2010 fiscal year to $158 million in the current fiscal year, the university has said. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback imposed spending reductions in May and June to shore up the budget, including 4 percent cuts to the state's six public universities.

Myers told reporters after the board's meeting that "leveling off" higher education spending would help hold down tuition increases. Kansas State's tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates from Kansas have risen 67 percent in the past decade, to more than $4,900 a semester.