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Lawmakers Propose Boosting Higher Education Funding In Kansas

J. Schafer
Kansas Public Radio/File photo

Kansas universities and colleges have been living under a budget cut for several years. Now, House lawmakers recommend fully reversing the cut and increasing funding for higher education.

Their plan would add $9 million, reversing cuts then-Gov. Sam Brownback ordered in 2016 during a budget crunch. The bill also tacks on another $10 million.

That's about double what Democratic Gov. Kelly proposed. Her budget would reverse the remaining funding cuts.

The House plan is still well less than the $50 million boost the Board of Regents requested for the coming fiscal year. But Republican Rep. Ken Rahjes said it’s a start.

“We wanted to show a good-faith effort that the Legislature does want to work with higher education," he said after the meeting. "Try to do our part to make higher education affordable.”

University of Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod is happy to see that, but he said it’s not enough to keep up with inflation.

“This certainly makes it easier," he said after the meeting. "We’re incredibly grateful for that, particularly as we try to do our very best to toe the line on tuition costs.”

The Board of Regents wanted $80 million over the next two years. Girod said that’s what’s needed to keep up with rising costs for things like health insurance.

Some Republicans on the committee were irritated with recent tuition hikes at Kansas universities and said a funding boost should be targeted to specific programs.

Some of the funding cuts have already been restored by lawmakers in recent years. The latest funding plan could be amended by the House Appropriations Committee before the budget is finalized.

"Everything's kind of a placeholder," Rahjes said.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.