Evidence of ever-increasing demand for spending on cybersecurity at Kansas' public universities and colleges struck close to Blake Flanders.

Flanders, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, said protecting student data and sensitive research information had become a routine challenge for colleges and universities. He said the problem also surfaced at the Topeka office of the board supervising more than three dozen universities, community colleges and technical colleges in Kansas.

"We get hacking attempts daily," he said. "We get phishing attempts with employees daily. We've had people try to hack the live-stream server."

Investing in a response to emerging IT realities and the escalating cost of health insurance, campus utilities and student services contributed to the Board of Regents' appeal for a $50 million increase in state tax support for public universities in Hays, Pittsburg, Manhattan, Emporia, Lawrence and Wichita.

The proposal to the 2020 Legislature included a plea for a $10 million bump in need-based financial aid. Under this new program, the state's portion would be matched dollar for dollar through university endowments.

The Board of Regents last year proposed a comparable $50 million boost in state appropriations, but lawmakers settled on a hike of $35 million. Political support for that expansion was built on the higher education board's pledge to hold tuition rates flat for the first time in a quarter-century.

Rep. Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, said he was suspicious of round-numbered recommendations from the Board of Regents. He said state legislators preferred a precise outline of how university administrators envisioned using extra state dollars.

"It makes the ask a little bit problematic because if you just have a round number of $50 million, to me, it looks like no analytics was done in generating that number," Waymaster said. "I would actually like to have more finite information."

Flanders said the base budget enhancement figure was determined by applying a higher education inflation index to current state aid to universities and factoring what level of new support would be necessary to hold student tuition rates flat for a second year.

In addition, Flanders said the Board of Regents' intention to seek $10 million from the state to invest in a building backlog on campuses had been dropped.

The Board of Regents remained committed to a request for an additional $18.5 million for the two-year colleges and $1 million to Washburn University, he said.

A portion of that total would enable the state to match funding to demand for a popular program allowing high school students to enroll in subsidized technical education classes at two-year colleges. The program has grown from serving 3,500 students in 2011 to 13,600 students this year.

"We have seen firsthand the difference it is making for Kansas families, businesses and the significant increase in the number of students who are now pursuing a technical career in areas of great demand across the state," said Heather Morgan, executive director of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees.

She said a student's completion of college credit while in high school had been shown to correlate to greater success in completing degree and certificate programs.

Under the Board of Regents' package of budget recommendations, $5.6 million would go to a new program paying tuition for high school students who enrolled in a basic college-level English course.

"Starting with one class would afford us the opportunity to evaluate the impact on institutions and on student success," Flanders said.

He said the higher education system's overall budget increase reflected growing demand for student financial aid and services, especially mental health counseling. The need to enhance student recruiting and academic advising was evident throughout the state system of higher education, he said. In addition, he said, health insurance costs would climb 4.5% next year, information technology demands were surging and the cost of electricity was rising.