Completing her eighth and final year as a member of the Kansas Board of Regents, Christine Downey-Schmidt of Inman was recognized for her services in a ceremony and reception in Topeka June 20.
“Serving on the KBOR has been a challenging but rewarding position. I have had the privilege of serving with excellent board members and working with some outstanding university, community and technical college presidents,” Downey-Schmidt said.
The nine-member KBOR is the governing board of the state’s six universities and the coordinating board for the 32 Kansas public higher education institutions. KBOR also administers the state’s student financial aid, adult education, GED, and career and technical education programs.
“Successful states value and support robust higher education systems with high quality, broad access and affordability,” Downey-Schmidt said. “Kansas is currently at a crossroads. Continued cuts to higher education undermine the mission of colleges and universities, in turn undermining a state’s ability to grow businesses, strengthen an economy with an educated workforce and provide a high quality of life for its citizens.”
Downey-Schmidt considers the hiring of university presidents one of the most important accomplishments of KBOR during her tenure.
“The presidents in our university system are perfectly matched to their campuses and universities. These leaders are strong, smart individuals with visionary ideas and plans for their campuses and their communities,” she said. “They are supported with dedicated, often underpaid faculty and staff whose top priority is the success of the students they serve.”
In completing her tenure with KBOR, Downey-Schmidt noted concerns she has for the future of higher education.
“In reflecting on my eight years, I have observed a change in attitude from policy-makers. During my time in the senate and early years on KBOR, it was evident that the legislature saw themselves as partners in the process of higher education. Fifty percent of a student’s cost of attending college was paid for by the legislature. Currently, that figure stands at 22 percent, resulting in tuition increases,” she said. “Until the legislature returns to a partnership position, students and families will continue to bear the brunt of legislative cuts to higher education.”
Downey-Schmidt completes 20 years of service in Topeka, serving as a senator for District 31 from 1992 until her retirement in 2004. During her tenure in the Kansas Senate, she served as Ranking Member of the Ways and Means, Education, and Agriculture Committees.
Recently, Downey-Schmidt was elected to the Higher Learning Commission, a prestigious association that oversees the accreditation of over 1,000 degree-granting colleges and universities in 19 states.
“Serving on the HLC is the next logical step in my service in higher education. After being involved with the governing of universities, it will be interesting to work with the process of accrediting those universities,” Downey-Schmidt said. “It is vital that students get their college degrees from accredited universities, so working with the HLC is an important position.”