Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little
Testimony to the Senate Ways & Means Subcommittee on Education
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Chairman Arpke, Ranking Member Kelly and members of the subcommittee: Thank you for the invitation to testify today in support of the Governor’s budget recommendation for the University of Kansas and the Regents system.
We’re in the midst of a comprehensive effort to ensure that KU is recognized among the top tier of public international research universities. Through Bold Aspirations, our strategic plan, we’re changing the way we prepare students for success. We’re fostering research and scholarship across all disciplines. And we’re sharing the benefits of a research university with our state and world.
We have just begun the second year of implementing this plan, and already we’re seeing results. Our 2012-13 freshman class is the most talented and diverse in our history. We’re recruiting distinguished professors from around the world, and our multidisciplinary strategic initiatives will enhance our ability to meet global challenges.
The recommendation by Governor Brownback to maintain an essentially flat operating budget, combined with his recommendation for funding to start work on the Health Education Initiative, will help us continue our progress and contribute to the prosperity and well-being of our state.
The Governor’s recommendation is also important in light of earlier budget cuts. In actual dollars, KU received slightly less in State General Fund revenues in FY 2013 than it did in FY 2006. Adjusted for inflation, KU’s state funding is down $124.4 million over the past 14 years.
With your help, our efforts will raise our stature in relation to our Association of American Universities peers. But more importantly, they help us better meet our mission of lifting students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.
Our first priority as a university is to prepare our students for prosperous careers and successful lives. As part of Bold Aspirations, we’re enhancing undergraduate education and helping students stay on track to graduate. Our goals are to increase both the number of students who attend KU and the percentage of those students who go on to successfully earn their degrees.
Increasing the number of Kansans with college degrees not only benefits the recipients of those degrees, but also businesses seeking talented workers and a state seeking to grow its economic base.
From 2006-2010, the median income of Kansans with bachelor’s degrees was $45,343, which is more than $17,000 above the median income of high school graduates. And those who earned graduate or professional degrees earned $58,212 a year. As of 2011, college graduates in Kansas also have an unemployment rate half that of workers who haven’t graduated from college.
To ensure graduates have the skills and experiences needed to be successful in their careers and lives, we are in the midst of revamping our general education curriculum.
The KU Core Curriculum, the first university-wide undergraduate curriculum, will ensure that students receive a comprehensive education while providing new academic flexibility. Some requirements, for instance, may be met with either classes or experiences. The new curriculum replaces a general education curriculum that had not been updated in decades and required far more classes than our peer universities, limiting students’ ability to tailor their education to their post-graduation needs.
Additionally, a range of new first-year experiences will help students start college right. The KU Common Book creates a shared community experience, and the 2013 book, The Worst Hard Time, about the Dust Bowl, will have a special resonance for students and faculty from the Midwest. Additionally, we are using First-Year Seminars to give students the opportunity to explore a topic of interest in a faculty-led, small-group setting.
To encourage student achievement in high school and increase the number of students who arrive prepared to earn their degrees, new admission standards will go into effect in fall 2016. Our goal is for every student who is academically prepared to come study with us, and we will continue to work with educators and parents to make sure their students are aware of—and ready for—the new standards.
Of course, our students don’t wait until after graduation to show off their talents.
Besides being the largest class since 2009, the fall 2012 freshman class set KU records for academic preparedness, with an average ACT score of 25.1, the highest in the state, as well as for diversity. These gains reflect enhanced recruitment efforts and the benefits of the four-year renewable scholarships that were announced in 2011.
These new students will follow the path of their colleagues, showing the world that Jayhawks excel in a range of disciplines and competitions.
Four KU students, all from Kansas, were named Goldwater scholars, and six more students earned prestigious Fulbright grants to study and conduct research abroad.
KU aerospace engineering students again swept the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics Individual Aircraft Design Competition. KU has earned more first- and second-place awards in the 44-year history of this competition than any other university.
Throughout 2012, preparations continued on campus for the School of Music’s Wind Ensemble to perform the world premiere of “In the Shadow of No Towers,” written by critically acclaimed composer Mohammed Fairouz. The group will present the piece March 26 in Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium in New York City.
And, of course, Jayhawks around the world turned their eyes to London as junior Diamond Dixon won an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. women’s 4x400-meter relay team. And we all cheered when our men’s basketball team reached the National Championship game, our women’s basketball team reached the Sweet 16, and our volleyball team reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.
As they pursue their degrees, KU students are guided by faculty who are leaders in their fields and whose research and scholarship enhance their teaching.
Joe Lutkenhaus, distinguished professor of microbiology, molecular genetics, and immunology, earned a 2012 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, widely considered a precursor to the Nobel Prize.
So-Min Cheong, associate professor of geography, won the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the foundation’s most prominent prize for junior faculty.
Doug Ward, associate professor of journalism, was named the national journalism professor of the year by the Scripps Howard Foundation.
And Laura Moriarty, assistant professor of English, saw her novel “The Chaperone” rise to the top of many critics’ lists.
These are just a few of the faculty leaders who share their knowledge and expertise with students so those students can graduate and become leaders in their own right.
We hope that our students will also be inspired by the examples of distinguished alumni, such as
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who returned to campus in September, meeting with students and emphasizing how his time at KU shaped his life and prepared him to lead his nation.
And we created honorary degrees, in part to highlight role models our students can follow. The first four degrees were awarded last year to Sheila Bair, Bob Dole, Kirke Mechem and Alan Mulally. This spring we will honor three more distinguished individuals: Karole Armitage, Wendell Castle and Wes Jackson.
In addition to inspiration, talented students and faculty need classrooms and laboratories that enable them to reach their full potential. Additionally, state workforce needs require expanding enrollments in several key areas.
The School of Engineering broke ground in October for a new teaching building. This state-supported facility is part of an expansion to meet the needs of engineering-intensive businesses in Kansas that resulted in a 22 percent increase in the size of the school’s freshman class this year.
We are grateful for the support the Legislature and Governor have provided for this expansion, which answers a call from engineering firms such as Cessna and Black & Veatch for more engineers. The new building will be adjacent to a sustainability facility we opened in fall 2012 that provides research space in fields ranging from biofuels to remote sensing of ice sheets.
Our School of Business is on track for a new building, thanks to a $20 million lead gift from the Capitol Federal Foundation.
And the university also is seeking state support for expanding the KU Medical Center’s ability to educate physicians and health professionals to address provider shortages, especially in rural areas. I’d like to introduce Dr. Doug Girod, executive vice chancellor of the medical center, to detail what this initiative means for the health and vitality of our state.
BUILDING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES
The Health Education Initiative reflects our university’s unique role as home to the state’s only School of Medicine. It is part of a broader mission we have of enhancing the health and well-being of Kansans and their communities.
Cancer patients deserve access to advanced care closer to home, which is why achieving National Cancer Institute designation in July was such an important accomplishment.
This milestone will bring clinical trials and world-class care to patients throughout the region, oftentimes in their own communities through our partners in the Midwest Cancer Alliance.
This achievement would not have been possible without the support of policymakers, and on behalf of Dr. Roy Jensen and his team, I want to thank you for the support the Legislature has provided to the cancer center. Achieving NCI designation will save lives, but we’re not resting here. Dr. Jensen and his team are already working on obtaining the next level of designation as a comprehensive cancer center.
Of course, the cancer center is just one way that we meet Kansans’ health needs. For example, the School of Nursing has signed a partnership with 18 community colleges, providing nurses who have an associate’s degree in nursing from a participating college the opportunity to receive their bachelor of science in nursing from KU’s online RN-to-BSN program.
We also welcomed our second class of students to the innovative School of Medicine-Salina and our second class of first-year medical students to the expanded School of Medicine-Wichita. That school is now led by Dean Garold Minns, a physician who also is professor and program director in internal medicine.
A community’s health is also measured by its prosperity, which is why we’re fostering entrepreneurship and turning discoveries into jobs. There are 24 active companies based on KU research, creating jobs and economic growth, and we’re making entrepreneurship a priority.
Last year we hosted our “Entrepreneur Boot Camp” for faculty to learn the skills needed to become entrepreneurs. We have launched the KU Strategic Partners Program to build bridges between the university and businesses. And the main Bioscience & Technology Business Center on west campus has reached capacity ahead of schedule, and planning has begun on an expansion.
We also recognize the need to keep rural communities strong by helping solve a challenge faced by many small businesses: surviving past the retirement of the owners. The School of Business has launched RedTire—shorthand for “Redefining Retirement”—to match retiring business owners with graduates who want to own a business, ensuring those firms can continue in their current locales.
This is one example of how we bring the benefits of a flagship university to people across Kansas. Another is that the School of Social Welfare will offer its Advanced Standing Master of Social Work through classes in Hays and Garden City, helping practicing social workers enrich their education and better serve their communities.
And the Kansas Fire & Rescue Training Institute at KU is providing grain-engulfment rescue training to grain workers and first responders via a truck equipped with a grain bin, grain hopper, and rescue equipment.
Finally, communities are also made more vibrant through the arts and humanities, which KU provides through programs like Musical Theatre for Kansas, sponsored by the Department of Theatre and KU Alumni Association. This program brings KU students to theaters across Kansas to perform an original production for local audiences, and I hope you had the opportunity to attend one of their performances.
MAKING DISCOVERIES THAT CHANGE THE WORLD
Research universities have a special role in higher education and our society. The scholarship and creative works of our faculty members not only inform their teaching but also contribute to our well-being and prosperity.
Increasing scholarly work across all disciplines is a priority of Bold Aspirations, as is increasing our external research funding. Last spring we announced another record-setting year for federal research funding. In FY2011, KU conducted $256.1 million in externally funded research, which is more than all other Kansas universities combined.
We’re working to expand scholarship in every discipline because we know ideas and discoveries truly can change the world. They also change lives, such as those of the children who will benefit from a new initiative designed to improve the way K-12 schools educate all students, including students with disabilities.
Wayne Sailor, associate director of the KU Life Span Institute’s Beach Center on Disability and professor of special education, will direct this effort with Associate Research Professor Amy McCart. The project is funded by a $24.5 million federal grant—the largest research grant in KU history.
This is just one of the ways KU is changing lives, as well as improving our understanding of the world and ourselves. There are many others, and I only have time to list a few here:
Hui Zhao, associate professor of physics, has made discoveries in the area of electron detection that have applications for renewable energy technologies.
Christie Befort, assistant professor of preventive medicine and public health, examined the factors behind an increased rate of obesity among rural residents.
David Frayer, professor of anthropology, worked with an international team on a breakthrough giving us new insights into Neanderthals’ brains.
Rene Jamison, assistant clinical professor, and her colleagues at the KU Center for Child Health and Development created a program to help adolescent girls with autism and other developmental disabilities make friends and succeed in social settings.
And Andrew Torrance, professor of law, advised the National Academies on intellectual property in the field of synthetic biology.
Talented faculty members drive teaching and discovery at KU, which is why we’re recruiting for 64 new faculty positions.
A dozen of these will be distinguished professors, thanks to funding you approved last year. These Foundation Professors will advance our four strategic initiatives and strengthen our membership in the Association of American Universities. We are in the process of recruiting several individuals who we think would make outstanding additions to our university and state.
We also recognize that we must be good stewards of the money we receive from students, families and taxpayers, which is why we have continued to make our administrative operations more efficient.
Through a review called Changing for Excellence, we have systematically sought to reduce administrative costs so that we can invest those savings in teaching and research. Through a contract with Energy Solutions Professionals, LLC, we have already achieved $3 million in savings. This is part of a 15-year agreement guaranteed to achieve $31 million in energy savings through an equal amount of capital improvements and system optimization that will then result in net savings for the university. We’ve combined supplier contracts to achieve economies of scale and merged facilities maintenance operations on the Lawrence Campus, with a resulting reduction in supervisory positions.
We’ve achieved enough administrative savings to fund 22 additional faculty members and are continuing to implement additional efficiencies so that we can uphold our responsibility to our students and state.
All these efforts are supported by donors to Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the $1.2-billion comprehensive fundraising campaign we launched last spring. This campaign will advance KU and The University of Kansas Hospital by expanding scholarships, supporting professorships and faculty research, and helping us provide the services and care that benefit people here in Kansas and around the world.
With your support, and with help from alumni and friends, we’ll ensure the University of Kansas is recognized among the top tier of public international research universities.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.