For those who look at our major research universities—the University of Kansas and Kansas State University—and see the capacity to raise significant private money, one might ask why they don’t just turn to the private sector for the resources, if it is so critical. The answer is a little complex. Even though the state’s support for higher education at our Regent Institutions has dropped from as high as 50%, during my time in state government, and headed down to 20% and lower, that resource has been and will continue to be tapped, the current discussion aside. Making up for the resulting gap has been private money as well as higher and higher tuition. The capacity to raise private money has been impressive. I know here at K-State, in President Kirk Schulz and now General Richard Myers (who was previously serving as the chair of the university’s capital campaign), we have a phenomenal fundraiser who can connect very well with supporters of the university. But there are realistic and practical limits. Funding the cleaning of the restrooms is not a naming opportunity, but I think most would agree that it’s important.
Here is the other hard reality: the capacity to raise private money for existing gaps and critical needs could be seriously hampered if the core financial supporters saw declining state support as an albatross that could not be overcome. We have a better choice. The question is: will we have the wisdom to make it?
Also in this blog series on higher education: Focus on Higher Education: An Introduction, Some Personal Background, and Are We Reversing Our Direction on Research?