Leaders of the three Southwest Kansas community colleges shared ideas on cooperation and collaboration recently, and heard first-hand from a Thai refugee and a Dodge City paramedic who are benefiting from shared programs already under way.
Rob Boyd of Ford County Fire and EMS and Dwa Tho, Garden City, spoke to elected trustees and administrative personnel from Dodge City, Garden City and Seward County Community Colleges at GCCC’s Beth Tedrow Student Center.
Boyd focused on the GCCC-based Emergency Medical Services Technology Program, which allows students to advance from EMT-Basic and EMT-Intermediate status to full paramedic certification.
The partnership program lets men and women in Dodge City or Liberal complete a significant share of their class work through live, interactive television originating in Garden City. A related arrangement lets Dodge City and Garden City students take classes in a Respiratory Therapist career program taught at the Liberal college.
“Having this kind of partnership is the only way I could have done this,” said Boyd, who will soon add a GCCC associate degree to his previous DCCC degree. “It has been a huge, time-consuming class, but the school has done an excellent job.”
Boyd cited professional instruction and powerful experiences, including the opportunity to observe live heart surgery at the Kansas Heart Hospital in Wichita.
“You may not think so,” he said to the group of 30 at the meeting, “but to me, well, that was pretty cool.”
He added that completion of a paramedic program requires strong commitment, family support and a flexible employer. Gray County EMS, he noted, is paying his schooling in exchange for a work commitment.
Tho, using a language unfamiliar to him a year ago, told the group he achieved his goal of learning English quickly through the GCCC Adult Learning Center’s English as a Second Language Program.
“I am grateful to all my teachers,” he said, citing his desire to advance to a college degree and eventually become a doctor who serves other immigrants.
Accompanied by ESL Instructor Linda Miller, he outlined the process of learning English, completing a GED high school equivalency program and advancing to college classes.
Success, in Tho’s case, came through a determined effort in reading and writing, two days of weekly computer work and a campus program designed to help immigrants make the transition from adult education to college level learning.
COMMON ISSUES & IDEAS
The three-college meeting was originally scheduled to share higher education concerns with Southwest Kansas legislators, but none were able to attend, so board members used the time to discuss common issues. They also exchanged ideas with Janie Perkins, Garden City resident and member of the Kansas Board of Regents, which governs state universities and coordinates community colleges.
• Developmental or remedial classes all three schools must provide for high school graduates not ready for postsecondary English and math curriculum when they enroll in college.
• Courses that offer concurrent high school and college credit.
• The successful academic performance of community college transfer students at state universities.
• Technical and career education, including the fact that more than 70 percent of postsecondary technical education in Kansas is provided by the state’s 19 community colleges.
• Legislation that would allow community colleges to own property outside their home counties or taxing districts.
• New programs in social work and ESL-oriented elementary education provided through Access US, a consortium of Western Kansas community colleges with Emporia, Fort Hays and Kansas State Universities.
SOLUTIONS FOR STUDENT PREPARATION
Dr. Richard Burke, DCCC president, suggested regular contact between college and high school faculty to address the preparation of high school students for postsecondary curriculum.
“It’s important to build relationships and have open, honest conversations from the head and the heart,” Burke said.
Perkins said the Regents are also concerned about what Dr. Bill Clifford, GCCC Trustee, termed “the remediation burden.” In English and math combined, more than 60 percent of incoming freshmen must take one or more developmental courses.
“The community colleges are at the center of remedial education and it’s an issue of funding,” said DCCC Trustee Shane Bangerter. He pointed out that students from the region’s immigrant population enter public schooling at every grade level, often with limited language skills, creating difficult challenges for area school districts.
“We need the funding, and with it we could make a huge difference,” Bangerter said.
Concurrent college and high school enrollment can often help students see the need to better prepare themselves for college academics, according to Dr. Duane Dunn, SCCC/ATS president.
SUCCESS AFTER TRANSFER TO UNIVERSITIES
Burke and Dunn shared reports from the state universities, showing that graduates from both of their schools earn higher grade point averages than their non-transfer classmates on the university campuses. Ballantyne cited reports showing the same results for GCCC.
“We need to sell that fact to the public,” Burke said.
“We need to sell it to the high schools too,” said GCCC Board Chairman Ron Schwartz.
The group touched on ways to share the value and successes of community colleges with the public, ranging from billboards and advertising to annual public reports. In addition, they discussed erroneous beliefs about community college credit transfer problems.
Before concluding, they got an update on progress in replacing Sheila Frahm, executive director of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees.
Frahm, a former lawmaker and Kansas lieutenant governor, is retiring after more than a decade of service. Board members learned that up to three applicants are being interviewed for the position in Topeka.
“This joint meeting provides an ideal opportunity for the trustees to discuss common challenges and strategies for system efficiencies,” said Dunn. “It certainly helps the administrators of the colleges develop methods of meeting the educational needs of southwest Kansas." SCCC/ATS will host the next joint meeting.