KHI News Service

Med school programs in Salina and Wichita face cuts or elimination, chancellor says

University CEOs spell out consequences of Legislature's higher ed budget plans

By Mike Shields | April 17, 2013

Medical school programs in Wichita and Salina are among the things that could be significantly cut back or eliminated, if the Legislature moves forward with plans currently on the table to reduce state higher education spending between 2 and 4 percent.

That's according to University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

"These are the kinds of things we would look at," she said. "Because of the size of the cuts, it's not possible to look at taking a little bit here and a little bit there...At Wichita and Salina there would be no basis on which we could afford to keep running those programs."

A hand-out accompanying her remarks today to members of the Kansas Board of Regents was more specific:

  • Thirty-six fewer medical students would be admitted with three-quarters of the reduction at KU Med's Wichita campus. The school of medicine program in Salina would close.
  • The number of nursing students would be reduced by 50.
  • At least 38 faculty positions cut on the Lawrence campus alone.
  • And there would be "significant risk" of KU's National Cancer Institute designation not being renewed.

The KU residency program in Salina is considered unique in the nation both because of its small campus and because of its focus on training doctors for rural practice. The expansion of it and the Wichita residency program were done recently by KU without additional state aid.

KU Medical Center officials said that the 4 percent cut proposed by the House would be closer to 10 percent when coupled with proposed salary caps and "sweeps" of vacant positions.

Gray-LIttle and the presidents of the other state universities today took turns describing how the schools would cope, should the Legislature settle on either the House or Senate budget plans left on the bargaining table when lawmakers left Topeka on April 5 for a month-long break.

Budget negotiators are scheduled to return to Topeka later this month with the full Legislature returning in early May with the goal of settling budget matters and ending the annual legislative session. The Senate has proposed 2 percent cuts in higher ed funding. The House has approved 4 percent across-the-board cuts for the universities.

Mary Jane Stankiewicz, director of government relations for the Regents, told the board that if the cuts occur the state's higher education funding would be "set back a decade."

Gov. Sam Brownback proposed steady but flat spending for the schools and is scheduled to tour campuses starting next week to make the case for his spending proposal.

Regents said even with flat state spending that student tuition increases likely would be needed to cover increased operating expenses and to offset the continuing decline in state funding as a percentage of overall university financing.

Members of the Kansas Board of Regents, left, heard from each of the state's public university presidents, right, about how the schools might cope with spending cuts being considered by the Kansas Legislature.

View larger photo

Legislators are trying to craft a budget in the aftermath of last year's massive income tax cuts. The governor's budget plan relies, in large part, on lawmakers extending a sales tax increase scheduled to expire July 1. The House budget plan would work without the sales tax extension but would require deeper cuts in spending than proposed by either the governor or the Senate.

Among the potential consequences of the Legislature's proposed cuts outlined by the other five Regents' university presidents were:

  • At Pittsburg State University, the possibility of cutting the equivalent of 30 full-time positions.
  • At Fort Hays State, between $1 and $2 million in cuts resulting in larger classes and fewer section offerings.
  • At Kansas State, difficulty hiring or keeping good faculty and elimination of enough positions to make up for cuts between $6 and $7 million.
  • At Emporia State, fewer positions and less equipment.
  • At Wichita State, cutbacks in programs such as allied health.

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