HAYS, KS -- Kansans who need a college education but cannot move to a college community continue to depend on Fort Hays State University as the most experienced and least expensive provider of distance education.
Joyce Swinehart of Overland Park has never set foot in Hays, but in May of this year she received a Bachelor of General Studies degree and a certificate in organizational leadership from Fort Hays State. Earlier in her life, Joyce was an applied music major but did not finish college. She and her family moved to Overland Park about five years ago, and she returned to school at Johnson County Community College. She heard about the FHSU degree program at JCCC and called Curt Brungardt, FHSU's director of Leadership Studies.
"He just streamlined the whole thing," she recalled. "He got it all done in about two days." She enrolled in January 1999 and completed the last 36 hours for her degree through the FHSU Virtual College, which offers distance learning over the Internet, through interactive television, and by audiotape and videotape.
She described her experience with FHSU as great because she was able to apply her past college experience toward the degree and take the FHSU courses at times that fit into her demanding schedule. After her last child graduates from high school next May, Joyce plans to put her degree to use in the job market, or she may go back to school! "I'm thinking about graduate school because Fort Hays is making that easy, too," she said.
Joyce Swinehart is not alone. About 3,200 students took classes through FHSU's Virtual College during the 1999-2000 academic year.
Dr. Larry Gould, FHSU provost, issued a reminder about the easy availability of FHSU's Virtual College in response to a recent announcement by Washburn University of Topeka that it would begin making a few of its bachelor's degrees available through some Kansas community colleges.
"We applaud Washburn for deciding to provide this service," Gould said. "However, people in need of distance education should be aware that Fort Hays State offers courses in many more academic areas, at more locations and at nearly half the cost of the Washburn program. And we've been offering our Bachelor of General Studies degree to off-campus students since 1987!"
Tuition for the Washburn classes was announced at $140.00 per credit hour, while FHSU charges only $79.65 a credit hour for its Virtual College classes.
Publicity about the new Washburn program mentioned that it would include some western Kansas community colleges and stated that there were "few" universities in western Kansas. Actually, Fort Hays State is the ONLY public university in the entire western half of the state. Gould emphasized that FHSU's location allows it to provide better, more personal service to the citizens of western Kansas.
But quality service is not limited to just western Kansas, because FHSU has advisors available on several community college campuses across the state, including Johnson County Community College.
The BGS program allows students to combine credits from previous schools with classes from FHSU's Virtual College to earn an undergraduate degree in liberal arts and sciences, The degree can include many areas of academic emphasis, including art, biological sciences, chemistry, communication, economics, English, geosciences, history, information networking and telecommunications, interdisciplinary studies, justice studies, leadership studies, mathematics and computer science, modern languages, music, philosophy, physics, political science, psychology, and sociology. FHSU also offers a distance learning graduate degree, called the Master of Liberal Studies degree, in many areas of academic emphasis. In addition, as demonstrated by Joyce Swinehart, students can combine technology or other certification programs with a BGS or MLS degree, which gives them an even greater advantage in the job market.
For information about Fort Hays State's BGS and MLS degrees and other distance learning opportunities, students should contact the Virtual College at (800) 628-FHSU or visit the university web site at .