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Regents OK budget

9/20/2013

TOPEKA (AP) -- The Kansas Board of Regents asked the governor Thursday to restore tens of millions of dollars in higher education spending that was cut this spring.

Chairman Fred Logan said regents approved the additional budget request even though its fiscal 2014 budget already has been approved because it has a responsibility to advocate for increased investment for the state's universities and colleges.

"The board understands that it is in a unique position," said Logan, a Leawood Republican.

The biggest amount would be more than $35 million cut from the six state universities' budgets during the next two years. The reductions came as part of across-the-board spending cuts and salary reductions on the campuses. The regents will receive more than $750 million for higher education from the state general fund in the current fiscal year.

The request was adopted by a voice vote, sending it to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback for consideration. The request makes no reference to how the regents will treat future tuition rates, though the nine-member board has considered keeping rates flat if funding were restored.

Messages left for the governor's office seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Logan said Brownback likely would seek amendments to the state budget, and regents want their priorities considered. That includes an $8 million increase for career and technical education programs at state community colleges and vocational schools.

"We want to make sure it doesn't get lost in the shuffle. It's a point of emphasis," Logan said.

Legislators will tour campuses in October to assess the schools' needs and to gather information about what each state university is doing to fulfill its mission. In advance of their tours, lawmakers sent the list of 81 questions they want answered about higher education, said Board of Regents spokeswoman Mary Jane Stankiewicz.

"We need to keep in mind this is our time to tell our story," she said. "Let's not get distracted by our detractors."

Stankiewicz said campus leaders should call upon business and community leaders, alumni and foundation representatives to step forward and explain the value of each university and the impact of higher education. She said the tours would help the regents system be better prepared to engage legislators during the 2014 session, which starts in January.

Logan suggested the regents and their campuses shouldn't be offended by legislators seeking more information to use for basing their budget decisions.

"I'm not discouraged with the 81 questions. I'm looking forward to it," he said.