Fall 1999

A New Deal

A "reconstituted" Board of Regents now holds a wider rein on higher education in Kansas

This past spring the Kansas Legislature voted into law a historic bill that restructures the system of governance for higher education in the Sunflower State. Swept away is the old Kansas Board of Regents, whose members governed the six so-called Regents universities. In its place is a new Board of Regents. Same name, but with new members and a broader mandate.

The board continues to govern Wichita State, Kansas, Kansas State, Emporia State, Fort Hays State and Pittsburg State universities and still wields the power to hire and fire chancellors and presidents. But beginning July 1, the nine-member panel also supervises the state's community colleges and vocational and technical schools, schools that had been under the purview of the state Board of Education. In addition, the new law calls for the board to oversee the coordination of state-sponsored post-secondary academic programs with those at Washburn University and the state's many private colleges.

"The bottom line is, we have a lot of hay on our fork."

Steve Clark, Board of Regents member

The reforming mission behind Senate Bill No. 345 is that — with one board at the reins — the six state universities, 19 community colleges, four technical colleges, seven vocational schools, Washburn and 17 private colleges will forego territorial competition and field academic programs that truly complement one another.

"This gives us one group to coordinate all of higher education in this state. Period. That's what this is all about," says Sen. Tim Emert of Independence, Kan., one of the bill's two Senate sponsors.

"Senate Bill 345 provides an unprecedented opportunity to restructure higher education in Kansas like none other in the country," says Steve Clark '65, president of Clark Investment Group, Wichita, and a recent Board of Regents appointee.

Supporters of the revamped system are sold on its possibilities, including the idea that the streamlined format will, in the long run, save the state money. Yet questions flourish. Just how will members of the reconstituted board define their mandate of "supervising" the state's community colleges? And what will "coordinating" the state's post-secondary academic offerings really mean?

The Players

Gov. Bill Graves has appointed the nine individuals who are in the process of answering those and other questions. Appointees Clay Blair of Mission Hills, Harry Craig of Topeka, Sylvia White Robinson of Kansas City and Bill Docking of Arkansas City are holdovers from the previous board, and Docking will continue to chair the group. New appointees are Clark, Janice DeBauge of Emporia, Floris Jean Hampton of Dodge City, Fred Kerr of Pratt and John "Jack" Wempe of Little River.

Each member of the reconstituted board serves on one of three advisory commissions: one for Regents institutions, one for community colleges and vocational and technical schools, and one for higher-education coordination. Clark, Craig and Robinson comprise the public universities commission.

A key requirement of the new structure is that none of the three commissions may have more than one member who holds an associate or bachelor's degree or certificate of completion from the same post-secondary institution. Under this requirement, the three members who hold ku undergraduate degrees each serve on a different commission. Of the other members, one each holds an undergraduate degree from WSU, ksu and Emporia State, while the remaining members hold undergraduate degrees from out-of-state institutions.

Now responsible for the coordination of all public post-secondary higher education in the state, the Board of Regents is analyzing how best to accomplish its new duties. "While the possibilities are great, there is a good deal of apprehension surrounding this undertaking," Clark says. "Frankly, everything is being sorted out as we go along." He adds that one of his greatest concerns is that the Kansas Legislature provide adequate funding for the venture, which, among many other needs, will require a state-wide database for tracking post-secondary students and programs in order to be a truly effective agent for change. Such a database, alone, will cost somewhere in the range of $300,000-500,000. "The bottom line is," Clark sums up, "we have a lot of hay on our fork."

Despite the challenges, perhaps even because of them, the regents and the professional staff who support their endeavors are looking forward to fleshing out the new system. Board of Regents Executive Director Kim Wilcox says that among current priorities are gathering input from new constituencies and integrating the commission structure into the board's former standing committee structure, which comprised committees for academic affairs, fiscal affair, policies and procedures, and facilities.

During initial fact-gathering efforts, the board has found that officials from each of the state's 37 public institutions of higher education have, as Wilcox puts it, "great willingness and eagerness to make this work."

— Connie Kachel White


Funding Excellence

On any given evening this year, 18 student employees will be sitting at their phones under the watchful eyes of Brandon Smith, Wichita State's new coordinator of The Annual Fund for Excellence. The student workers are calling Wichita State alumn...

A New Deal

A "reconstituted" Board of Regents now holds a wider rein on higher education in Kansas This past spring the Kansas Legislature voted into law a historic bill that restructures the system of governance for higher education in the Sunflow...

Schaus follows Belknap as WSU director of athletics

This July, Jim Schaus became WSU's 16th director of athletics, following Bill Belknap, who retired from the position after six years on the job. Schaus (pronounced Shouse) has spent nearly 20 years in athletic administration with a strong emphas...


Liberal Arts Faith's Harvest Using oral and written histories, the associate dean of WSU's Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has written a book about Mennonite communities. Sharon Hartin Iorio, associate professor of communica...