In a news conference this afternoon at the future site of the Higher Education Opportunity Center of Fort Hays State University, Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, talked about new higher education programs that his university is bringing to southwest Kansas.
"We are offering classes in our Social Work Program through Access US," the president announced, "and we will be providing a variety of support services through this new center to help residents in this part of the state gain access to a college education."
President Hammond was joined in the news conference by Regent Janie Perkins of Garden City, and they talked about initiatives the Kansas Board of Regents is pursuing to encourage greater financial support for the state's six universities.
Pointing to a dramatic 20-year decline in state support for higher education that was revealed in a recent Regents study, the president called upon state lawmakers to increase funding for the university operating budgets in the 2007 session of the Legislature. Regents are recommending 6-percent increases in the budgets of the six universities.
"The downward trend must be reversed," he said. "This trend ultimately will have a detrimental effect on the quality of education and will increase the financial burden on hard-working students and their families through higher tuition costs."
The president and Regent Perkins also urged lawmakers to provide money for deferred maintenance. The six state universities face a backlog of $727 million because important maintenance needs have simply been deferred due to the lack of state funding. Deferred maintenance on just the FHSU campus amounts to $40.9 million.
"We want to be reasonable," President Hammond said. "We hope they'll be able to at least make a significant down payment of $180 million to $200 million in the next legislative session. Two out of every three buildings the state of Kansas owns are on the campuses of the six universities. This maintenance is necessary to protect the state's investment in these buildings, which have a replacement value of $4.5 billion, and to ensure that we can continue to attract the best and brightest students to our campuses."
The president explained that the FHSU social work classes will be offered through the
Access University Systems Program, which is called Access US for short. It is a program created and governed by the Board of Regents to help students complete a bachelor's degree close to home. FHSU, Emporia State University and Kansas State University have partnered with six community colleges, including Garden City Community College, to bring higher education opportunities to the people of western Kansas. The Western Kansas Educational Compact, a consortium of the participating colleges and universities, manages the operations of the program. In addition to the Social Work Program, Access US offers four-year degrees in nursing, general studies with a business emphasis and technology leadership.
President Hammond introduced Kendal Carswell, who will be the academic advisor and instructor for the social work classes on the GCCC campus.
"The mission of the Social Work Program is to prepare competent, professional social work generalists who practice within FHSU’s primary service area of western Kansas," Carswell said. "It also seeks to provide social workers with the cultural competence to practice with the diverse and at-risk populations throughout the state and around the country."
Carswell explained that the program was developed in response to needs expressed by social service agencies, educational institutions and those working in social service agencies without social work degrees.
"Preparing students for a social work career isn’t the university's only goal," he said. "We also believe it’s our job to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to 'make a life' as well as 'make a living.' "
The program will be offered over a three-year period. Prospective students must have an associate's degree and have met most of the terms of the Transfer and Articulation Agreement between community colleges and the Regents universities. Students who drop out or fall behind will not be able to make up the classes in Garden City in the three-year plan, as classes will be offered sequentially and only once. Whether FHSU starts a new cohort program in the future depends on the number of students who pre-enroll and the availability of adjunct faculty in southwest Kansas.
There will be some on-line classes, but most will be taught face-to-face at GCCC. Classes will begin in January 2007, and scholarships are available through Access US.
President Hammond also introduced Martha A. Perkins, a graduate of Garden City High School and FHSU, who is the director of the Higher Education Opportunity Center of Fort Hays State University in Garden City. The center, located in Suite 102 at 311 Campus Drive, is still under construction but will be open soon. The president said a grand opening of the center would be announced soon for sometime in January or February.
The center was established to provide higher education assistance to all of southwest Kansas. Individuals of all ages who are seeking to continue their education will receive direction and assistance with career choices, financial assistance and scholarship opportunities, course options, degree options, and other higher education services. The ultimate goal of the center is to open the doors for all individuals of southwest Kansas to pursue their dreams of higher education.
Perkins will recruit both traditional on-campus and Virtual College students, with emphasis on first-generation students from southwest Kansas’ growing Hispanic population. She will serve as FHSU's primary contact for all students in the Finney and Seward County areas and as the main contact for the Hispanic population in Ford County.
The visit to Garden City was part of President Hammond's 2006 Kansas Media Tour. The president dedicates a week each fall to traveling throughout the state to visit about important issues in higher education with newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, FHSU alumni and legislators. This year's tour began with a Monday morning news conference in Hays, and the president will be on the road until he returns to campus on Friday afternoon.