"Alignment" was the watchword today as Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, addressed assembled faculty and staff during a University Open Forum.
The president reported on progress over the past decade and talked about the need to align the FHSU Dare to Dream strategic plan, the university's accreditation process and the Foresight 2020 plan recently unveiled by the Kansas Board of Regents.
Part of the process will be a formal alignment with the North Central Kansas Technical College, which has campuses in both Beloit and FHSU's home city of Hays. "This will not be a merger," President Hammond emphasized. "Both institutions will remain distinct entities, but some functions, such as business and student-affairs functions, may be combined."
The two schools have been in conversation about the possible alignment for many months, and representatives of FHSU and NCKTC traveled recently to Bemidji, Minn., to learn first-hand about a similar alignment between Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College. President Hammond announced today that the NCKTC Board of Control voted last week to move forward with the alignment.
"We believe this will enable both institutions to better meet the needs of the citizens of Kansas," he said. "We have agreed in principle, but the details remain to be worked out."
The forum also provided an opportunity to discuss the need for alignment of various goals. Harkening back to his theme for the 2010-2011 academic year -- The Age of the Unthinkable -- the president noted that much had changed since he announced a Dare to Dream strategic plan for 2010 through 2020. He also noted that efforts would begin in a meeting next week in Chicago to draft goals for FHSU's plan for accreditation. And the university's goals for the coming years must align with the performance indicators required by the Board of Regents.
President Hammond said the university's performance over the past decade demonstrated why it could be confident about the future. What follows are past directions set for FHSU by the Regents, and a brief report card on what was accomplished:
Grow the university and serve Kansans
FHSU more than doubled its enrollment from 5,533 students in 1999 to 11,308 students in 2009. Over the past five years, FHSU grew 33.0 percent compared to 11.3 percent at the next highest Regents school, Pittsburg State University. FHSU also was the leader in Kansans served over that five-year period, with growth of 8.1 percent compared to 6.5 percent at the second place school.
Improve efficiency of operation
At $227, FHSU had the lowest cost of production per credit hour of any of the Regents schools, and at 5.9 percent, FHSU also had the lowest increase in cost over the past five years. The next lowest, respectively, were $256 and 24.2 percent.
Keep costs down for students
FHSU is still the best buy within the Regents system. Tuition this year is $1,473 at FHSU compared to $3,284 at the University of Kansas.
Increase retention and the number of degrees granted
The increase in retention, which the Regents define as moving on from the freshman year to the second year, was 9.3 percent at FHSU compared to 3.6 percent at Wichita State, which was second best. In terms of degrees granted, FHSU was off the charts. With 2,290 degrees granted in 2009, the five-year increase at FHSU was 84 percent, compared to just 13 percent at Pitt State, which was the second highest increase.
Under its strategic plan for the next 10 years, called FORESIGHT 2020, the Board of Regents outlined six goals. What follows are the goals and a brief summary of the potential initiatives President Hammond said FHSU would consider to meet those strategic goals:
Achieve alignment between the state’s preK-12 and higher education systems and continue to enhance alignment between higher education institutions.
FHSU will pursue the alignment with NCKTC. Also, FHSU will expand the Western Kansas Educational Compact, the partnership among FHSU and western Kansas community colleges which has become dormant in recent years.
Achieve participation in the state’s higher education system that better reflects the state’s demography and more fully engages adult learners.
FHSU will continue to increase Hispanic enrollments, which more than doubled from 204 students five years to 493 students this year. Also, FHSU will serve adult learners by continuing to grow the Virtual College, which already serves more students through distance learning than all the other Regents universities combined. The president noted that despite a popular misconception, the vast majority of FHSU's Virtual College students are in Kansas.
Achieve measureable improvement in persistence and completion rates for higher education institutions across the state.
Building on the success already achieved in these areas, FHSU will continue to work at improving retention and increasing the number of graduates.
Ensure that students earning credentials and degrees across the higher education system possess the foundational skills essential for success in work and in life.
FHSU will ensure that students earn degrees and certifications that equip them for productive careers. FHSU will continue to emphasize communication skills, which include speaking, writing and the effective use of new technology.
Enhance alignment between the work of the state’s higher education system and the needs of the Kansas economy.
FHSU will align its academic programs with the needs of the workplace so that graduates bring the needed skill sets to their jobs in business and industry. The Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science is a prime example. The state academy, based at FHSU, serves the best and brightest high school juniors and seniors from across the state with an emphasis on encouraging them to remain in Kansas.
Enhance the regional and national reputation of Kansas universities through aspirational initiatives.
The president said this was the most difficult goal because it was more a matter of perception than reality. FHSU is recognized as a leader in providing higher education to China. Likewise, FHSU is recognized as a leader in distance learning. To achieve this goal, FHSU will work to increase recognition of academic areas, such as business and art, that are already excellent.
Finally, the president explained that FHSU is pursuing three modality plans: On campus; the Virtual College; and the China program. He said the university would succeed only if all three of the modalities were successful.
"The China enrollment will level off at about 4,000 because that is the quota set by the Chinese government," President Hammond said in conclusion. "I think we can grow the Virtual College as much as we want. We can grow it in direct proportion to how many resources we put into it. Everything we can do to grow the on-campus enrollment we need to do, because the on-campus environment is the key to knowledge, to an excellent faculty and to where we maintain quality control."