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K-State Today

June 19, 2013



Open letter to Faculty Senate from the dean of agriculture and K-State Research and Extension: Becoming a Top 50 public research university

By John D. Floros

Dear Faculty Senators,

After receiving numerous reports about the budget discussion at the June 11 Faculty Senate meeting, I believe it is critical to address some issues raised about the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension, or KSRE, budgets. My goal is to provide pertinent background information and show that activities funded by KSRE are critical to the mission and future success of Kansas State University in areas beyond agriculture and extension.

Hopefully, after reading this letter, you will realize that the two entities are essential to K-State becoming a Top 50 public research university by 2015. They are responsible for about 50 percent of the university’s research expenditures (theme 1), and they carry out significant public engagement, outreach and extension activities (theme 4).

Kansas State University has three sections in its state budget. One section funds the general university operations and supports the teaching and research functions, including the College of Agriculture. Another section is for the College of Veterinary Medicine. The third is for K-State Research and Extension, also known as Extension Systems and Agricultural Research Programs, or ESARP. The media refer to this budget as “extension,” but ESARP funds faculty and staff salaries, and some operating expenses in the university’s research, extension and outreach missions.

ESARP is the primary state funding source for the research and service responsibilities of K-State as a land-grant university. Those responsibilities are carried out by the eight departments in the College of Agriculture, as well as by faculty in more than 12 academic units in the colleges of arts and sciences, engineering, human ecology, and veterinary medicine.

Last year, 14 percent of ESARP’s budget (more than $8 million) was spent outside the College of Agriculture, where it supported the salaries of about 90 faculty, 24 support staff, numerous graduate students and provided more than $600 thousand in operating expenses. ESARP funding flows to more than 20 academic units throughout K-State. With diverse investments from biology to chemical engineering, statistics to clinical sciences, and from biochemistry to human nutrition and the libraries, cuts to the ESARP budget would be felt across campus.

The ESARP budget drives many of the active researchers on the Manhattan and Olathe campuses. In many colleges, tuition dollars support research. In the College of Agriculture, ESARP dollars do that. We are an unusual university in that the USDA – not Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health or National Science Foundation – is the federal agency responsible for the greatest amount of extramural research funding to campus. The more than 300 faculty across campus, who are currently supported through ESARP, represent a vital component of K-State’s research excellence as envisioned in the 2025 plan. In fiscal year 2012, these faculty members were responsible for more than $50 million in extramural funding and about 50 percent of the university's record research expenditures. Protecting this base is critical to being classified as a Carnegie Category I – Very High Research Activity University.

Some misconceptions were raised about funding of our Cooperative Extension Service. K-State’s Extension is actively engaged in all Kansas counties and provides the university’s most visible public face aside from athletics. For example, 4-H is the state’s largest youth organization with more than 100,000 participants; Walk Kansas reached at least 15,000 people this year in virtually every county; Operation Military Kids supports military families; and Nutrition Education Programs serve young families with limited resources.

K-State accomplishes all this by partnering with the counties or with multicounty extension districts to fund and manage all local extension operations. The state ESARP budget funds only about 16 percent of the total county operations. The remaining funding comes from county/district sources. In essence, the 105 counties across the state are the university's biggest partners in its operations. 

The bulk of ESARP’s budget (approximately 70 percent) is spent on the Manhattan and Olathe campuses, paying for faculty and staff salaries, student stipends and operating expenses. Another 10 percent is spent at our branch stations in Colby, Garden City, Hays, Parsons and Tribune, which are required to keep our basic and applied agricultural research comprehensive and relevant. The remaining ESARP dollars are split about equally between county-level and state-level extension activities both on and off campus.

Nobody is interested in having people lose their jobs as a result of budget cuts, but the $2.7 million reduction in the FY14 ESARP appropriation represents 5.6 percent of our budget.  Taking all these cuts out of our operating budget would make our programs unsustainable. 

A very real possibility is that faculty and staff in five different colleges, who are paid at least in part through ESARP, may experience a reduction in the ESARP contribution to their salary. Presumably this reduction would be backfilled either from monies from the tuition increase or from other monies in the budgets of the affected colleges and departments. If tuition dollars were used to fund these reduced faculty salaries, then it is semantics as to whether the money flows through the main campus budget or through ESARP. It is still tuition money paying the affected faculty members’ salaries.

Thank you for reading this letter. My goal was to shed some light on budgets and logistics, but my hope was to provide a clear sense that we are all members of a single university with diverse goals and common aspirations for excellence. Together we can do great things, even in these tough financial times. Together we can make this great university even greater.  Let’s work together, let’s become a Top 50 public research university by 2025.

With best wishes for a cool and relaxing summer,

John D. Floros

Dean, College of Agriculture
Director, K-State Research and Extension