With the Kansas Legislature now up and running in its 2014 session, Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, urged lawmakers to support Gov. Sam Brownback's recommended budget.
"Overall, we are very pleased with the governor's budget recommendation," President Hammond said. "His recommendation would restore the 'salary cap' reductions from the 2013 session that cost Fort Hays State $276,176."
Seeking to cut state funding for universities, the Legislature last year took money from universities that either over spent or under spent their salary budget lines. Universities that paid their employees more than the state budgeted for personnel saw their salary funding cut by the amount of the additional employee pay. Universities that spent less state money than they were budgeted for salaries, generally due to open positions, had their salary line reduced to what they actually spent.
"At FHSU, the Legislature cut what we spent to hire faculty to cover increased enrollment," the president said. FHSU has seen its enrollment soar from about 5,800 students in the year 2000 to just over 13,500 at the end of the fall 2013 semester. "Obviously, with our tremendous growth, it has been necessary to hire more faculty," he continued. "The governor did not think it was a wise decision to cut a university that hired more faculty to cover increased enrollment. Conversely, he thought it was a wise decision by us to increase our enrollment and hire more faculty to serve those students."
President Hammond said Gov. Brownback's recommended budget also included funding for expansion of the new Information Systems Engineering Bachelor of Science Degree Program at FHSU. "The additional $760,111 would permit us to support 100 students in the program, which will provide much-needed workers to service networks, provide network security and support information systems."
Students started enrolling in the new program in the fall of 2012. Enrollment doubled to six this year and is expected to increase steadily. The program is one of only two in the United States and one of few worldwide. It was approved by the Kansas Board of Regents in 2011, and its founding director, Dr. Houssain Kettani, was hired in August 2012.
Also FHSU is home to the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science, which allows 57 high school juniors and seniors, at present, to live on the Hays campus and accumulate both their high school diploma and 68 hours of college credit. The anticipated expansion of the Information Systems Engineering Program would include a KAMS-like summer program for high school students who are interested in information systems engineering.
"We have the facilities and staff in place to offer this summer program for the best and brightest high school students from across Kansas," the president said.
Last year, the Kansas Legislature took the unprecedented step of passing a two-year budget, so the budget for Fiscal Year 2015, which begins July 1, is actually already in place. In effect, Gov. Brownback is recommending amendments to that budget.
"This would add about a million dollars to the FHSU budget," President Hammond said, "and allow us to prepare some of the skilled workers who will be needed if the Kansas economy is to grow as planned."