By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
Being a somewhat isolated rural area, it can be hard for residents of Southwest Kansas to complete their needed bachelor’s degree programs. A recent new proposal from the Kansas Board of Regents seeks to improve that, but not without some concerns from Seward County Community College/Area Technical School over a proposal that would merge Dodge City Community College with Fort. Hays State University to provide a four year university in Dodge. This plan would also place another technical school at the new school.
The proposal comes in light of Dodge City wanting to fill the void after the closing of St. Mary’s of the Plains College almost 12 years ago.
Administrators and board members of SCCC/ATS believe this would adversely affect Seward County’s technical school enrollment.
“We have high numbers, and we far exceed Dodge City Community College with the number of high school students taking our programs,” said SCCC/ATS President Duane Dunn. “We have been recognized by the Board of Regents for our employee engagement programs, getting industry people involved with our programs. So from our perspective, we’re doing a lot of things and all of those things we’re doing at a high level of performance. Then to see the discussion about putting a new technical institute 90 miles away from us – it is a direct competitor – is a little frustrating.”
Dunn added there are, however, some parts of the upcoming proposal that could be beneficial, especially the opportunity for people in the area to finish up their bachelor’s programs.
“It can be a challenge to complete a bachelor’s degree. If they’re place-bound, they don’t want to relocate to another university or community,” he said. “OPSU is about 45 miles from here and their tuition would be comparable to what FHSU tuition is so, depending on the degree that individual may be seeking, it may or may not be a benefit for our regional population. But, having the presence of a state university president on a regular basis in Southwest Kansas can only be a good thing for the bachelor’s degree completion program.”
Even with these benefits, however, Dunn said there has not been an acceptable amount of research done concerning the proposal and a distinct lack of communication between the Board of Regents and the governor’s office with SCCC/ATS.
“For us, it’s really that they haven’t done their research – not come out and talked to us about it,” he said. “In this case, an entire new institution is being proposed but no institution is being given the opportunity to comment on potential implications. We really feel that the communication process has been bypassed and the implications to the regional economies have not been considered.”
The Board of Trustees at SCCC/ATS also recently drew up a resolution regarding the proposal. In the resolution, the board makes it clear it is neither opposing nor endorsing the merger proposal.
“They’re just saying there needs to be communication,” Dunn said. “We request in that resolution that the governor’s office and Board of Regents visit our campuses, and we included in that resolution (to visit with) Garden City Community College and Colby Community College, and we did that because we already have partnerships with them.
“If this is really a concept of bringing efficiency and opportunities, we just felt like it was important that the Board of Regents and the governor’s office knew that we’re already in those collaborative relationships, and we would just expect them to come out and do the research about a proposal before it’s presented to the legislature,” Dunn added.
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