Learning center aims to help adults earn their high school diploma By ROBERT PIERCE • Daily Leader
With the merger between Seward County Community College and the former Southwest Kansas Technical School came some changes.
The tech school had been associated with USD No. 480, and so was the Southwest Kansas Community Learning Center. Since the merger, the learning center was forced to move out of its home at the technical school, and it has a new location at Second Street and Stadium Road near Liberal High School.
Learning center director Cole Ely said the center is an alternative high school designed for students 18 and older who are trying to get their high school diploma.
“It’s not a GED,” he said. “They actually do the high school work and complete the classes they need to complete to get the diploma. It’s a USD 480 high school diploma. We do allow some students in from 16 to
18 with special permission.”
Ely said a diploma from the learning center will read USD 480 instead of Liberal High School.
“Other than that, it’s legally the same thing,” he said. “It’s different from a GED in that you’re not taking an equivalency test.
You’re actually saying you’ve completed the work. To some employers, that makes a difference. To some, it doesn’t.”
Ely said every class needed to meet graduation requirements are available at the learning center, and most are done on computer. The center has been open for close to 10 years.
“We’ve been viable for a few years,” he said. “This has been a tough year for us because a lot of students didn’t seem to realize that we were gone. We send out letters, but a lot of people are pretty transient. They may not even be at the same place or have the same phone number.”
The staff of the learning center is Ely and secretary Teri Martin.
Ely said he can do the work in any of the high school classes available, and this is part of the reason he was chosen to be the head of the center a few years ago.
“I was fairly well-rounded,” he said.
The Liberal center is affiliated with the Southwest Plains Regional Service Center in Sublette, which has many more centers in the area.
“Each one of us is the teacher on record for a particular subject,”
Ely said. “If I did find some math that I was unable to do or the student had trouble with math, technically we could contact the teacher on record in that subject in one of the other centers.”
Ely said all of the courses are taught in English.
“We get a lot of calls from people wanting to know if we’re doing it in Spanish,” he said. “We have some programs for people that want to learn English. We’ve got Rosetta Stone, and we’ve got another one like it. That is available if people want to come study English, but the truth of the matter is they’re probably better off going to the Colvin Center where they specialize in that.”
Students may enroll at any time during business hours, which are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Fridays till 3 p.m. Annual fees are only $10. For more information, contact Ely or Martin at
604-1086 or e-mail