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K-State Today

January 29, 2016

January letter: Legislative session, K-State 2025 past and future

Submitted by President Kirk Schulz

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Welcome to the spring semester! I hope each of you had some downtime over winter break and are refreshed and ready for another academic term. During the break, I had the opportunity to visit family in Virginia, cheered on the Wildcats against the University of Arkansas in Memphis, and spent time with our immediate family in Florida. After being away from campus for nearly two weeks, I was ready to be back in the Little Apple!

Every January, two things happen at about the same time — our spring semester classes start and the Kansas Legislature begins meeting. A couple of quick reminders for the campus community as the 2016 legislative session starts:

  • Please voice your opinions on any legislative matters that are of interest, but remember not to use your university title or university resources. 
  • There are always many rumors floating around and various proposed bills that might affect higher education. If you have questions about anything you hear, please reach out to Dr. Sue Peterson to get as many details as available.
  • Sue Peterson provides frequent updates on legislative issues that will appear in K-State Today during the session. This is a great source for information about higher education topics addressed in Topeka and Washington, D.C.  

Our major priorities for the 2016 legislative session are essentially the same as in previous years: to preserve the current block grant funding, to retain control of the distribution of the block grant to Regents schools with the Kansas Board of Regents, to remove the currently imposed tuition cap, and to secure partial funding for the proposed Geosciences building.

All nine members of the Board of Regents and the six university presidents and chancellor recently signed and delivered a letter — focusing on the first two items — to legislative leadership. Please be assured that the entire K-State leadership team will continue to advocate strongly with the Legislature on the need for continued financial investment in public higher education.

The winter break also was a great time for reflection on the successes we have enjoyed in recent years, and the many opportunities that await K-State in the future. Our fourth annual K-State 2025 progress report was published in December, and I encourage you to follow the latest news on the revised K-State 2025 website.

Thanks to many dedicated K-Staters, we continued making remarkable progress advancing our goals across all seven themes. Academic year 2014-2015 was another record-setting year in research expenditures, student body diversity, freshman-to-sophomore retention rates, and graduation rates. We saw significant increases in our endowment pool and the number of doctorates awarded. For the fourth consecutive year, private philanthropy exceeded $100 million. It may be hard to believe, but with the conclusion of this academic year, the university will complete the first five years of the K-State 2025 visionary plan, and what a five years it has been!

As we wrap up the first five years of K-State 2025 this fall, we want to celebrate our successes and the progress made during this time. The celebration will be anchored with an October 2016 Landon Lecture focused around national challenges in public higher education composed of a distinguished panel of higher education leaders including K-State alumnus and Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson. As we continue to plan this celebration, we will encourage colleges, departments and similar units to plan their own celebrations. 

Celebrating our success is important, but it also begs the question, "What should K-State 2025 years 6-10 look like?” We had a large number of faculty, staff, students and alumni who spent considerable time several years ago mapping out a proposed roadmap for what K-State could look like in 2025. We chose a set of metrics at the university level, college level and department levels to measure progress. We placed all of these planning documents on the 2025 website so anyone can see our aspirations and how we planned to measure them. We made a commitment to revisit the visionary plan periodically, and now is that time as we get ready to embark on our next five years.

In reflection, it is clear we need to revisit our university benchmark metrics, reconvene our 2025 planning groups this fall, and start the process to consider modifications, if needed, to the K-State 2025 plan for years 6-10. 

The president's cabinet and deans have been discussing our eight benchmark metrics and some possible modifications. The consensus is we need to have university metrics that fall into two broad categories. The first category is traditional higher-education metrics that are used by virtually all major research universities and can be used for national comparisons with our peers. As examples, these benchmark metrics would include things like research expenditures, endowment value and freshman-to-sophomore retention ratios.

However, it is clear we need a second category of university metrics that represent distinct institutional goals not easily comparable with peer institutions. As examples, these metrics could include things like percentage of students involved in undergraduate research and placement rate for graduates. 

Over the course of the semester, we will keep everyone updated on both the celebration of our first five years of K-State 2025, as well as opportunities for modification on institutional goals and objectives for K-State 2025 years 6-10. I encourage the entire university community to help us map out the next five years. 

It promises to be an exciting journey toward the future. Have a great semester!

Go Cats!