Kansas colleges and universities face an uncertain future

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Colleges and universities across the United States are struggling financially, including those in Kansas. The coronavirus pandemic led the Kansas higher education system to online learning, but with another projected wave of the virus expected in the fall or winter, it’s unclear when students and staff will be back on campus.

According to the Kansas Board of Regents President, Dr. Blake Flanders, a top priority for colleges and universities right now is refunding students their room and board money for the remainder of the semester. He says those payments are being processed now. Because students are still taking classes online, they will not be refunded tuition.

“We don’t see that as an issue,” said Dr. Flanders. “Now, we do see issues with longer term funding.”

The Board of Regents has asked Governor Kelly for both Federal and State financial help. While it may be possible to receive Federal assistance for the higher education system, it is unlikely that the state will be able to help. Kansas is expected to lose more than one billion dollars in revenue over the next two fiscal years, putting the state in a $653 million dollar shortfall. While the Governor has not released a budget plan to fix the shortfall, it is possible that Kansas higher education could actually see spending cuts.

Dr. Flanders said that because so many factors are up in the air, college and university leaders are planning for anything that’s awaiting them.

“Things, candidly, may look a little bit different for quite some time and so I know our institutional leaders are planning for several different scenarios, depending on exactly what situation they find,” said Flanders.

Dr. Flanders added that much of the higher education systems’ budgets are personnel costs, so some have chosen or been asked to take a pay cut in order to help. Bill Self, Les Miles and Jeff Long from the University of Kansas are all taking pay cuts. Others may soon follow.

“I’m really pleased with our universities and colleges, community colleges and technical colleges, as they’ve really looked to help their Kansas communities navigate through this time,” said Dr. Flanders. “Colleges opening their residence halls to people that need to be quarantined, colleges using 3D printers to help make protective equipment.”

While the Board of Regents along with Kansas colleges and universities are looking for ways to save money, Dr. Flanders says the schools will continue to provide quality education for students.

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