HAYS, KS - Approximately 21,000 survey forms will soon be distributed across much of south central Kansas to determine the need there for educational opportunities beyond the community college level.
Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, and Dr. William A. Wojciechowski, president of Pratt Community College and Area Vocational School, announced the survey jointly today during separate media gatherings at Hays and Pratt.
"Fort Hays State and Pratt Community College have been looking seriously at an affiliation for about two years," Hammond said during a morning news conference in Hays and again at a media luncheon in Pratt. "We believe this is a classic example of a win-win situation. FHSU's mission is to provide higher education throughout rural western Kansas, and extending our university presence into Pratt would create a significant new opportunity to advance that mission. At the same time, Pratt and the surrounding community would preserve the local identify of their institution while gaining long-term financial stability."
The FHSU president said he believed the time was right for the affiliation because of changing demands in the workplace. "When community colleges were created, they served an important role by making education beyond high school available locally," he said. "That is still an important role, but the limit of a two-year associate degree imposes an artificial ceiling that is severely restrictive. Many residents in the Pratt area need a four-year degree or higher, and this affiliation would make it possible for them to pursue advanced higher education without leaving a job or uprooting a family."
Dr. Wojciechowski agreed, and he pointed out that the PCC board unanimously approved the affiliation proposal last summer. "Frankly, the Kansas system for financing community colleges does not paint a bright picture for the future of our institution without the affiliation," he said.
"While we do not face an immediate financial crisis, the affiliation would provide an innovative long-term financial remedy that would not just preserve but enhance access to higher education in our service area."
"We want to make this bold move to improve our delivery of education while our institution is still strong," Dr. Wojciechowski added.
Both presidents believe the affiliation is a groundbreaking response to the reform measure passed by the Kansas Legislature last session. Under that plan to reorganize higher education, coordination of all the state's institutions of higher education was placed under the Kansas Board of Regents, which previously had been responsible exclusively for governing universities. During a visit to Hays last year, Gov. Bill Graves praised the affiliation proposal as an example of the direction intended by the new legislation.
FHSU and PCC officials presented the proposal to the Regents in August 1999. Recognizing it as a possible model for similar affiliations in the future, the Regents decided to move slowly. On Nov. 30, the Regents' Commission on Higher Education approved two separate documents related to proposed mergers and affiliations. The documents set out principles and procedures to guide institutions seeking to establish formal bonds. The commission's action encouraged FHSU and PCC to craft their proposal to meet the guidelines.
"There's just a lot of feeling that there should be a comprehensive plan before a particular affiliation is approved or disapproved," Commission Chair Fred Kerr said at the time.
President Hammond and President Wojciechowski explained today that the survey would establish solid scientific data showing the extent to which people in the PCC service area need access to higher education beyond the community college level. About 21,000 copies of the survey will be mailed in about two weeks to homes in the PCC service area, which includes the communities of Pratt, St. John, Haviland, Medicine Lodge, Iuka, Danville, Norwich, Byers, Cunningham, Nashville, Sawyer, Attica, Sharon, Protection, Preston, Kiowa, Kingman, Anthony, Harper, Spivey, Macksville, Mullinville, Coats, Penalosa, Zenda, Lewis, Hudson, Bluff City, Waldron, Greensburg, Coldwater, Wilmore, Hardtner, Isabel and Norwich.
The brief survey form solicits simple demographic information and then asks the respondent to indicate his or her degree of agreement with statements such as the following:
* I would like to receive a bachelor's degree or above from FHSU by attending class at PCC facilities.
* I have friends or family who would seek a bachelor's degree or above from FHSU by attending classes at PCC facilities.
* If I would pursue a college degree at PCC, I would like to save money on tuition by taking FHSU classes instead of a private college's classes.
* I believe increased access to higher education at PCC would benefit people in south central Kansas.
* I believe increased access to higher education at PCC would economically benefit south central Kansas.
* I believe increasing access to higher education at PCC will help growth in south central Kansas.
* I believe increasing access to higher education at PCC will help development in south central Kansas.
Results from the survey will assist officials at FHSU and PCC in providing the information required in the affiliation guidelines adopted by the Regents' Commission on Higher Education. To become effective, the proposed affiliation would have to be approved first by the Regents and then by the Kansas Legislature.