Nearly 40 years ago, leaders in Liberal and Seward County recognized that in order to prosper, the community needed to provide educational opportunities beyond high school. Initiatives at the state and federal level provided the chance for Liberal to apply to the Kansas State Board of Education for the opportunity to establish a technical school and a community college. The State Board of Education granted the requests and Liberal was authorized to establish two separate post-secondary institutions – Liberal Area Vocational Technical School (later Southwest Kansas Technical School - SWKTS) and Seward County Community College (SCCC). Classes began in 1967 at the technical school and in 1969 at the community college. Those individuals in our community who developed the applications, advocated for the approval, and helped garner local, regional and state support, had a great vision for Liberal and the entire region.
Both institutions have served southwest Kansas and surrounding communities well. Thousands of students have completed classes and programs, earned degrees and certificates, started businesses, completed university degrees, and established careers. Nearly every resident of Liberal, Seward County, and most surrounding communities has attended a class or someone in their family has attended a class at either SWKTS or SCCC. Those classes may have been for a certificate or degree, customized business and industry training, or a personal interest class.
Now the community will realize the next step toward providing high quality, effective education. The SWKTS and SCCC merger became a reality on July 1, 2008. After much deliberation and effort by the USD 480 Board of Education and the SCCC Board of Trustees an agreement was signed that brings the technical education programs and courses offered at SWKTS under the operations of SCCC. The Kansas State Board of Regents, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, and the United States Department of Education approved the agreement. The administration, faculty and staff at both SWKTS and SCCC have been diligent to insure an effective transition is available to students, and that the programs and courses meet the needs of the community, employers, and developing industries. Mrs. Jo Ann Sharp was a member of the USD480 Board of Education when the institutions were approved by the Kansas State Board of Education and the voters of Seward County. She continues her commitment to education now as a member and chair of the SCCC Board of Trustees. Sharp said that "this merger will be a benefit for Liberal and our entire region as the technical education programs are offered through the college. It creates more opportunities for students, reduces duplication of effort of operations, and provides more options for the businesses and industries to receive training and to employee well qualified workers." She also identified that students will have the ability to focus strictly on a technical program or have the option to complete the associate degree and possibly pursue a bachelor's degree. "SCCC currently has articulation agreements for students in technical career programs, and the merger will allow students greater access to further their careers."
The expanded options for students and employers were a central guiding factor for the merger. "Nearly all jobs and careers require at least some education beyond high school", said Dr. Duane Dunn, SCCC president. "As we provide more program options to students they can increase their chance to enjoy good paying jobs and pursue advanced careers in management and business operations." High school students can enroll in the programs with approval of their principal and begin their education in a specific career. They can return after high school graduation and complete advanced courses and pursue a degree. Adult students who are interested in a technical program can complete one or two year certificates or an associate degree. The merger allows a student to complete the entire program without having to enroll at two separate places.
The merger provides Liberal, southwest Kansas, and surrounding communities in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico with expanded educational opportunities. It also provides a more effective and efficient system of higher education, resulting in greater cost efficiencies. Student tuition costs will remain the same and enhanced services will be available to students.
SCCC has traditionally offered a number of different technical programs including allied health, agriculture, business, cosmetology, computer operations, and criminal justice. All of the current programs offered at Southwest Kansas Technical School will continue to be offered after the merger including air conditioning/refrigeration, automotive business management, automotive technology, automotive collision repair, business administration, carpentry, diesel technology, drafting, machine tool, medical assistant, welding, and truck driving. Enrollment is open in all of the programs and individuals interested in attending are encouraged to contact the SCCC/ATS admissions office at 620-417-1100.