Universities from around the state have teamed up to create a website geared towards the recently passed “Kansas Commitment” initiative.
The initiative, passed by the Kansas Board of Regents last month, aims a 50-million-dollar economy booster at the state, which focuses on bringing more opportunities to students receiving or preparing to receive higher education.
“It (the Kansas commitment) includes five different components. One is an inflationary-based budget request for the campuses. Another one is that building funding project on the campuses,” said Kip Peterson, director of Government Relations for the KBOR.
“Another piece that is of particular interest to students is a need-based financial aid program. There’s an economic and workforce development piece and also a broadband piece.”
The website www.kansascommitment.net was created by the Student Advisory Council to the Board of Regents, which is made up of the student body presidents from the six state universities. The website, which was created in conjunction with the Kansas Commitment, gives students the chance to receive information on the initiative.
Students are also given the opportunity to post their opinions on the Kansas Commitment and higher education in the state.
“Basically it’s an opportunity for us to be a voice to our 93,000 constituents,” said junior Tyler Thompson, president of Student Government Association.
“Basically what we’re doing is posting letters to the editor in a central location. We’re posting articles that mention the Kansas commitment. We’re posting videos from students talking about what higher education in Kansas has done for them.
“We’re doing all sorts of things to create a one-stop shop for information about the legislative proposal so when we go in and talk to legislative officials in February and March, we can hand them a business card with the website’s address on it so they can go and see it for themselves.”
Thompson spearheaded the creation of the website, along with fellow leaders from the remaining five universities in the state.
“The proposal was actually passed last month at the board meeting. We’ve been working on it pretty much since the day it was passed. We met the day after it was passed to be able to put together our vision for what the efforts on the student part would look like and we put it together and have just moved forward with it,” Thompson said.
Thompson said that the website was created to help elected officials and the general public gain knowledge of the thoughts of students they may not be able to sit down with in person.
“I think a lot of times when we walk in with a legislative proposal in Topeka, they don’t have a very good sense of who we are,”
“Obviously the couple dozen that go in to lobby for this are just a small dozen out the 93,000 students we represent, and we’re able to bring in a diverse audience that’s able to tell them what Kansas education means to them, what’s it’s done for them and what it means to the economy locally,” Thompson said.
“It should make our message stronger and hopefully make it easier to pass.”
Peterson said having outlets like these can only help the today’s higher education situation.
“It’s so crucial that elected officials hear from state university students. In the past 20 years, there’s been a dynamic where state funding has continued to decline, and as a result, tuition has continued to increase to make up the difference,”
“We’re now at a point for the first time in our state’s history that students contribute more to the operation of the state universities than the state does just through annual funding.
“So the students are bearing a bigger and bigger burden each year. That’s why it’s so imperative that elected officials hear from students. Higher education is vital and that affordable higher education is vital.”
With the election soon on our hands, Thompson said that students should be aware of the political times, and the Kansas Commitment website gives them the chance to voice their opinions on the races.
When asked if he was worried his overwhelming posts would be seen as a personal vendetta, Thompson said he had no worries in sight.
“With that I think it’s our job as students to get a straight answer. For me it’s pretty disappointing when you ask a governor of Kansas a question and they don’t answer it,” Thompson said.
“I think it’s our job to point out that fact to the voters because the election is coming up in two weeks. Kansas voters need to know what they are voting on, and if we can’t get a straight answer then that needs to be known. It’s not that difficult to say yes or no, or to explain something about it.”