January 23, 2021

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Kansas universities could speed up faculty dismissals under new Regents proposal.

A subcommittee of the Kansas Board of Regents voted Wednesday to endorse a one-year policy making it easier for state universities to suspend, dismiss or terminate employees, including tenured faculty members, without initiating the process of formally declaring a financial emergency.

The extraordinary proposal unanimously forwarded to the full Board of Regents was based on financial damage to the University of Kansas, Kansas State, Wichita State and three other state universities by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another issue was Gov. Laura Kelly’s decision in June to cut higher education appropriations by $35 million and her recommendation last week to the Kansas Legislature for a $27 million reduction in state aid to the universities. The Board of Regents asked the governor to restore the $35 million and hold the line in the new state budget. . . .

Under existing Board of Regents’ policy, a state university must formally recognize a financial exigency that required elimination of nontenured positions and operating expenditures. With the declaration, the universities could move ahead with reductions in tenured faculty positions.

The budget proposal outlined by the governor, which serves as starting point of discussion during legislative session, would slash state aid to the six universities by $27 million in the fiscal year starting July 1. Kelly set aside funding for raises to state agency employees, but suggested a $10 million block grant to the Board of Regents to use at its discretion.

The pandemic has just accelerated trends that were already underway.

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