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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Commerce Secretary talks up DCCC plan

  • The proposed Fort Hays State University technical institute and baccalaureate programs at Dodge City Community College reflects a changing model for higher education, Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George said.
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  • The proposed Fort Hays State University technical institute and baccalaureate programs at Dodge City Community College reflects a changing model for higher education, Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George said.
    The proposed industry-supported technical institute is one piece of that, he said but he didn't get the impression it was the focus of the proposal.
    Previous comments made by Regent Shane Bangerter and FHSU President Ed Hammond said the purpose of the merger was primarily to create the institute with 10 corporate-branded programs, which could include four-year degree programs based on the needs of the sponsor.
    "We want to train people for the workforce," George said, whether that was through the technical institute or through four-year degree programs.
    George joined Kansas Board of Regents members Kenny Wilk, Andy Tompkins and Ann Brandau-Murguia, at a meeting with representatives from the local governments, organizations, businesses and the college at Western Beverage to talk about the proposal, Friday.
    The next ten years will reshape the role of higher education in the American economy, George said, and with the proposed "FHSU at Dodge City," the community will be at the "cutting edge instead of lagging behind. I'd rather be cutting edge."
    While no one can know for certain what the environment in higher education will be, Wilk said, "It ain't going to look like it does now."
    Audience members from the college were concerned that the DCCC Board of Trustees vote to approve a "white paper" outlining a framework for the merger pushed the snowball down the hill, leaving the rest of the process outside of community control.
    The DCCC Board of Trustees voted to "take (the proposal) to the next level," George said, where it will be discussed by the Board of Regents. "It's like climbing Mount Everest and we're at the first base camp."
    Under the proposal, DCCC would continue to exist primarily as a taxing entity responsible for maintaining buildings, funding capital projects and sports, and providing scholarships, among other non-academic functions.
    FHSU would operate the academic programs and administration at the campus.
    Hammond, who has said he would be involved with the project after retiring from the university's top post in July, said earlier that the aspects explicitly described in the "white paper" were not negotiable.
    "Nothing's been signed, nothing's been agreed to," Wilk said.
    "I don't know what isn't negotiable," except that "one plus one cannot equal three. … The chance of us setting up a seventh university in Dodge City or anywhere else in Kansas is zero.
    Ultimately, the proposal will have to pass the Board of Regents, the Legislature and the governor's desk.
    "This dream has been around for a long time, … but nothing's really stuck," George said. With support from the state government, the plan has a good chance to succeed.
    Page 2 of 2 - On a visit to southwest Kansas with Gov. Sam Brownback early in the administration, George, a Dodge City resident, said he told the governor "The one thing we don't have out here the rest of the state has is a four-year institution."
    "There's still a need in southwest Kansas," George said. The proposal reflected that need while controlling costs amid a tight budget, he said.
    Planners wanted to have an outline in place for public consideration, he said. "It was never the intent to keep people out of meetings."
    "The molding and shaping has come because of the positions we're in, but it's the community's now," George said. 
    The Board of Trustees will continue to be involved in discussions with the Board of Regents, DCCC Chairman Merrill Conant said.
    "It was never our intention to say we were washing our hands of this, that we would come back in three to four years and it would be done. The board's impression was that this was the first step in a process," Conant said.
    "If the community is not for this, this will not go forward," George said.
    Regent Brandau-Murguia agreed: "I don't see the Board of Regents pushing an initiative that isn't community supported," she said.
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