Trustees from the three community colleges of Southwest Kansas gathered Monday night in Dodge City to focus on issues ranging from state governance for technical education to shared programs and the potential for greater cooperation.
Their discussion also addressed funding for deferred campus maintenance, reductions in out-of-district tuition and fair distribution of state funds for higher education.
The gathering took place on the Dodge City Community College campus, drawing presidents and other administrative personnel from the host institution, as well as Liberal-based Seward County Community College and Garden City Community College.
Dr. Richard Burke, DCCC president, opened the session with a reference to the Dodge City-Garden City-Liberal area as the “golden triangle.”
The discussion on deferred maintenance centered on recent state legislation that allows 60 percent tax credits designed to spur private donors to contribute funds to any of the 19 Kansas community colleges. Donated funds, Burke explained, may be used to upgrade and repair most campus facilities, with the exception of housing and athletic structures.
Parallel legislation also gives community colleges the option of taking out interest-free loans, over periods of up to eight years, to address deferred maintenance.
In addition, donations received under the tax credit option may be used for loan repayment, Dr. Duane Dunn, SCCC president, pointed out.
Kansas Senator Tim Huelskamp, also attending, advised the colleges to act quickly, saying the state’s universities, which have a different tax credit program, may take a different approach during the first two years it operates. The initial year will start July 1, 2008, and actually run just six months, with credits of up to $79,000 available. Larger amounts will be offered in future full-length years.
Dr. Carol Ballantyne, GCCC president, said she was pleased to learn that earlier restrictions had been eased on the use of the donation and loan funds, apparently making street and parking lot repairs eligible.
Jo Ann Sharp, who chairs the SCCC board, asked whether the credits are available to individuals only, or also to financial and other institutions. While learning that any such donors may contribute, she suggested focusing on individual donors, noting that they may be more likely to take ownership in the welfare of their local colleges.
TECHNICAL EDUCATION GOVERNANCE
Turning to governance of technical education, the three elected boards noted that Kansas had recently created the Technical Education Authority to guide the state’s five technical colleges and five vocational-technical schools. The authority, Burke noted, grew out of an initially formed technical education commission.
Creation of the commission came in response to requests by the technical colleges and schools, even though the 10 combined institutions provide only 23 to 25 percent of the technical education in the state. The other 75 to 77 percent is provided by the community colleges, including SCCC, DCCC and GCCC.
The Technical Education Authority now reports through a vice president to the executive director of the Kansas Board of Regents, and Burke credited the authority’s creation and growing status to political pressure from the Wichita area.
College personnel expressed concern about the organization, and Dunn said the community college presidents share the challenge of defining technical education at the state level, as well as educating and informing the commission and authority about the scope and breadth of technical education. He stressed that the heading covers an extensive series of learning services, ranging from welding to nursing and beyond, and noted that the definition should not be limited to industrial-related training.
Others in the group suggested part of that mission might be accomplished by getting authority and commission members onto the community college campuses to see programs first-hand.
Though not a new challenge, the group reviewed the status of out-of-district tuition too.
Out-of-district tuition, originally pegged at $24 per college credit hour, was once paid to each community college by the home county of any student who attended one of the 19 schools.
When the community colleges, which are primarily funded by property taxes in the counties where they’re located, became part of the Kansas Board of Regents under Senate Bill 345, the state began to gradually ratchet down the financial responsibility of the non-community college counties. Today, rather than $24 per credit hour paid by individual counties for non-resident students, the community colleges receive just $6 per credit hour, as part of state aid appropriations rather than from each county.
While no legislative remedies appear likely, Ballantyne asked whether DCCC, SCCC and GCCC should consider charging higher tuition for students from outside the home counties of the three schools. Neither GCCC nor SCCC is presently doing so, though DCCC has initiated such a policy.
The focus on the tuition issue led into consideration of ideas for revising the state formula for general budget aid to the 19 institutions.
Presently, state allocations are based on enrollment, and Dunn asked whether that arrangement is fair to community colleges serving areas with declining populations.
Burke, turning to Huleskamp, said additional funding would help address the disparity and asked whether a statewide sales tax could be instituted to provide community college dollars. Floris Jean Hampton, a DCCC trustee and former Regent, said the sales tax concept had been suggested years ago but never gained political momentum.
SHARING EFFORTS IN HEALTH CARE
Ballantyne opened discussion on the topic of shared programs, classes and instructors, citing the need for more learning opportunities in heath care fields -- a need that Hampton echoed as critical.
The GCCC president noted that her college already offers paramedic training on the other campuses, while SCCC provides instruction in respiratory technology for students in Garden City and Dodge City. However, she stressed, the colleges should try to address other medical training needs and possibly involve Colby Community College and Barton County Community College of Great Bend in the process.
“We all have a need for allied health care education at every level,” Ballantyne said.
One suggestion emerging from the discussion was to share instructors for the didactic portion of each college’s nursing program, since all three face difficulties finding enough master’s degree registered nurses to teach. While national nursing accreditation standards require a 10-1 student teacher ratio for clinical learning, the ratio is less stringent for classroom instructional components.
Dunn said the three Southwest Kansas schools and their partners in the EduKan online associate degree consortium already serve as a national model in sharing faculty personnel, and suggested similar principles might be applied in health care education. The other partners are CCC, BCCC and Pratt Community College.
He added, however, that national nursing accrediting agencies might balk at the sharing of nursing faculty personnel through a consortium arrangement.
SERVING THOSE IN NEED
The session opened with testimonials from two DCCC students about the value of their community college experiences, and closed with an unscheduled discussion about education for low-income, immigrant and Hispanic students.
“We need to work together in addressing poverty and the needs of these students,” Ballantyne said. Dunn agreed, noting that the number of first-generation students – those with no family experience in higher education – is rising across Southwest Kansas.
The Garden City president suggested all three colleges work more closely with the region’s high schools to help Hispanic and other immigrant families attain educational success. She added that the Kansas law allowing immigrant students to pay in-state college tuition serves as a powerful benefit, but still excludes some. Students quality if they show intention to gain citizenship, attend a Kansas high school at least three years, and earn a diploma or GED.
One challenge, Dunn noted, is that some students qualify for in-state tuition under the law, but still can’t receive federal financial aid.