K-State reaches $125 million commitment level for ag update

The Kansas agriculture community received welcome news that will mean significant upgrades to Kansas State University’s portfolio.

K-State on Feb. 13 announced the university was awarded $25 million through the State of Kansas’ Department of Commerce Challenge Grant program.

The Kansas Legislature challenged all state educational institutions to leverage private monies with the state funds at a three-to-one ratio for facilities construction and renovation projects, according to a college news release. The focus of the projects would be to attract and retain students and build the state workforce through increased enrollment. K-State met the challenge by raising $75 million in private donations to compete for the maximum available single award of $25 million.

In December, K-State met the private funding threshold. These funds, along with the challenge grant funding and an initial legislative appropriation of $25 million during the 2022 session, will net $125 million for agricultural infrastructure improvements, the release continued.

This infrastructure project will provide both new and improved teaching spaces for more than half of all the students taking courses in the College of Agriculture and will eliminate approximately $56 million in deferred facilities maintenance that was ongoing at the Manhattan campus.

The College of Agriculture infrastructure project is the first for the university’s new interdisciplinary approach to develop innovative solutions and educate and train the future leaders who will move agriculture forward, benefiting Kansas academically and economically. These buildings will position K-State to attract students and faculty focused on expanding next-generation research while working more closely with private industry.

"I want to say thank you to every donor, from the individual or family to our agricultural industry partners, for their generous gifts, and I want to express my gratitude to Gov. (Laura) Kelly, Secretary (David) Toland and the Kansas State Legislature for their award and belief in the future of the university and the state’s agricultural industry," said Ernie Minton, dean of the College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension.

"These innovation centers are the beginning of what we expect to be a long-term, sustained initiative to improve and enhance Kansas’ signature industry, of which the challenges are global and complex. At K-State, we do not shy away from the big issues," Minton said in the release. "The College of Agriculture’s vision is, and will continue to be, collaborating with partners to solve these challenges to positively impact the world."

"We are so thankful for the generosity and support of our state, industry and commodity leaders, alumni, friends and donors who are united by our vision to lay this incredible foundation for economic growth and job creation for Kansas," said Richard Linton, president of Kansas State University. "This investment in the university greatly contributes to how we will be able to prepare our students and faculty with the most innovative skills and tools needed to succeed and lead within this critical industry—and it is an investment that will benefit the people of Kansas and beyond for decades to come.

“I want to thank the coordinated leadership provided by the university, the college and the KSU Foundation for their work to meet and achieve the state’s challenge grant expectations,” Linton said.

“This is a giant step forward in addressing an ambitious infrastructure project for our globally recognized College of Agriculture,” said Greg Willems, president and CEO of the KSU Foundation. "We want to thank our generous donors who believe in this project and helped us achieve this match."

Agriculture drives the economy in Kansas, generating about $76 billion annually. Approximately 14% of the state’s workforce supports the agricultural industry, and according to a recent Kansas Department of Agriculture survey, almost a third of respondents expect the workforce to increase and plan to add additional full-time employees.

Construction and renovations will begin on the K-State campus in mid-2023, with all phases completed by the end of the year 2026.