An update was given recently to the Dodge City Community College board of trustees regarding the helicopter program.
DCCC provost Adam John made a call into the trustees meeting to give the update with the plans of looking ahead as the semester kicked off.
"Once we received approval of VA benefits, we had eight days to get the semester together," John said. "In those eight days we were able to enroll 18 students, one from Kansas. However, a week later one student dropped out."
Held in Arizona, the DCCC flight program with a partnership with Quantum Helicopters reached a VA agreement where no more than 85% of credit hours can be paid for with VA dollars.
"We are doing a good job with recruiting non-veterans and staying within VA regulations," John said.
The program had come under controversy over the Veterans Administration allegedly billing the college for close to $31 million, which DCCC has disputed.
According to DCCC, conversations over the alleged VA charges are still ongoing and with the reapproval, the college and the VA are heading in the right direction, according to John.
Along with partnering with Quantum Helicopters, one of the other recent changes comes with the cost per semester.
According to John, the cost is now $120,000 per semester, down from $340,000.
"This is without reducing any revenue to the college making it more realistic to the students," John said.
The $120,000 would include all materials for flight courses.
"Of the $120,000, the college would get $16,000 in revenue per student," John said.
According to DCCC, from 2011 through 2019, the flight program has generated a net revenue of $3.5 million.
As for being housed in Arizona, as the course progresses, plans are being put into place to return the flight program to Kansas.
"To get back to Kansas we will have to show good faith in changes made that suspended the flight program in Kansas," John said. "We need to build the relationship back up with the VA."
Speaking with John, the flight program would still continue in Arizona once the course is returned to Kansas.
"As of now we have five newly enrolled students in the spring semester and as things progress we would have students clearing a waiting list with interest from Ford County residents increasing now that the cost has significantly decreased," John said.
In order to maintain transparency with the program, DCCC board of trustees chairman Gary Harshberger wants to form a subcommittee to "provide proper oversight in monitoring the helicopter program."
Harshberger suggested the subcommittee consist of trustees Floris Jean Hampton and Dan Reichenborn and the vice chair of the trustees, a seat currently held by Jeremy Presley.
Presley is not running for re-election in 2019.
During the trustees meeting, trustee Terry Malone motioned to vote on having a discussion item added to the agenda for October on whether or not DCCC should continue the helicopter program.
"The board never voted on continuing the operation in Arizona and it's a program that has put us $33 million in debt and I think the Ford County taxpayers want to know how we feel about it," Malone said.
The motion was seconded by Reichenborn, who said, "I don't see there is any harm in discussing things, whether it's the helicopter program or the football program."
The motion failed 5-2.
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