chancellor bernadette gray-little_cbronson

Insisting public higher education should remain a public good and not a private one was the focus of Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little’s Monday Message this week.

Citing that over the last 15 years, per-student state support has decreased roughly 40 percent, Gray-Little noted some of the ramifications of that decline.

“Though universities continue to seek ways to become more efficient, the erosion of state support has inevitably forced many schools to scale back their mission or, in many cases, to increase tuition,” Gray-Little wrote in her message.

Joe Monaco, associate director of Strategic Communications, said the Chancellor’s Monday Messages typically touch on topics that would affect the University or current happenings. This trend in education from public to private, and the proposed legislation to freeze Regents University’s tuition are some of the issues currently at hand.

“We often write about topics that are timely or relevant to the campus community,” he said. “This seemed like one that was timely and relevant.”

Gray-Little wrote the proposed freeze to tuition “was a curious move by legislators, as it does nothing to address the state’s revenue shortfall, and because KU remains very affordable compared to neighboring state universities and aspirational peer universities.”

This proposal is more detrimental to the University than previous proposed cuts, Monaco said.

“We understand the intent of that, and we share the legislature’s focus on affordability for Kansas students and families,” Monaco said. “But a tuition freeze is complicated and would result in a greater loss of revenue for the University than the original cuts that were proposed earlier in the session.”

As Gray-Little continued, she added the freeze “prevents us from being able to keep up with inflation, let alone to embark on new initiatives to benefit Kansas.”

While the legislature debates this bill, among other budget bills, Monaco said the University will continue to work with legislators.

“It is something we would encourage lawmakers to consider very carefully because there are a lot of implications of this,” he said.

Mirroring that message and emphasizing the importance of the University’s students, faculty and discoveries, Gray-Little said, “Whether you are educating students, providing outreach to underserved communities, or discovering the next product or idea that benefits our world, you are the reason the University of Kansas remains — and should always be treated as — a public good.”

— Edited by Jordan Fox