HAYS, KS -- Thanks in large measure to the efforts of U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, Fort Hays State University has learned on the eve of the Christmas season that it will receive almost one million dollars from the U.S. Department of Education.
The money was approved by both houses of Congress on Dec. 15 as part of an appropriations bill. President Clinton signed the bill into law Thursday.
The exact amount of the grant for FHSU is $921,000. The money will be administered through the U.S. Department of Education's Higher Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. It is earmarked for information networking equipment.
Moran joined Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, and Dr. Mark Bannister, chair of FHSU's Information Networking and Telecommunications Department, at a news conference this morning on campus to announce the grant and talk about how it will benefit the university's students and the state of Kansas.
Hammond called the grant a major step toward increasing educational and technical capabilities for Kansas. "The Fort Hays State mission includes providing instruction within a computerized environment in the disciplines of the arts and sciences, business, education, and health and life sciences," he said. "We do this for the students in our traditional classrooms and through our Virtual College for individuals who previously could not have access to higher education due to limitations of time and distance."
"Congressman Jerry Moran has long been a supporter of higher education in general and Fort Hays State University in particular, so I want to thank him -- and Congress -- for responding to this need," Hammond said. "These funds will greatly enhance the educational opportunities for our students."
Moran agreed that the grant would be beneficial to FHSU, but he emphasized that the benefits would extend beyond the university. "This will impact residents of Kansas, especially western Kansas, because it will help to create even greater opportunities to become involved in high-tech industries," he said.
"I want to compliment Dr. Hammond and Mark Bannister and the others here at Fort Hays State who have taken a leadership role in providing this kind of education. FHSU really is at the forefront of this effort."
Also, Moran emphatically refused to take credit for the grant. "It's not my money; it's the taxpayers' money," he said.
Bannister talked about the importance of the information technology equipment that will become available through the grant. "This equipment is vital for educating students on campus and in the distance learning courses offered though our Virtual College," he said. "Through innovative partnerships with leading private sector companies, FHSU and the INT Department have been able to provide students with a unique learning environment. FHSU graduates are finding terrific opportunities in the workplace after gaining media, networking and telecommunication skills."
By way of example, Bannister said that recent FHSU graduates have been hired by leading information networking organizations such as Cisco, Sprint, Southwestern Bell, Pacific Bell, Qwest and Verizon, and by local and regional organizations such as Nex-Tech and the Hays Medical Center. He said starting salaries for spring 2000 INT graduates averaged $45,000, with some students starting in the $50,000 range and one above $60,000. One student who graduated in May has been promoted three times and now has a salary in excess of $70,000, Bannister added.
He said FHSU is placing students in electronic media outlets, such as television, news media companies and production houses across the country.
Upcoming graduates in the new Web Development Concentration are in great demand and have the ability to perform their jobs from anywhere they choose.
"Technology is the lifeblood of a successful academic program in information technology," Bannister said. "This equipment will be used to leverage private sector gifts and to provide some of the top learning laboratories in the nation."
Bannister also thanked Congressman Moran. He stated, "Producing graduates who have cutting edge information networking and telecommunications skills provides a critical work force for western Kansas and Kansas as a whole. These are the high tech workers who are driving the new economy. The stronger the technology base that we can build, the brighter the future is for the state of Kansas. The equipment funding that Congressman Moran helped to provide will be a powerful tool in creating educational and economic opportunity."