Fort Hays State University has a long history of forming both academic and industry-oriented partnerships in Kansas and abroad; now a steering committee, academic subcommittee, and financial subcommittee are in the process of ironing out the final details of a proposed merger between FHSU and Dodge City Community College.
“Fort Hays State University is always open to partnerships that could advance its mission of providing an affordable, high-quality education throughout Kansas and beyond,” said Kent Steward, director of university relations at FHSU, “Some of those partnerships have been with private industry and others have been with educational institutions.”
FHSU has been involved with several community colleges over the years in attempts to form partnerships, the earliest instance being Barton County Community College.
“That possible merger was abandoned after some cursory discussions between officials at the two institutions,” Steward said.
Several years later, discussions arose in Pratt County regarding a similar partnership.
“In 1997, Pratt Community College approached the Kansas Board of Regents about the possibility of affiliating with FHSU,” Steward said, “The possibility of that merger was explored in depth by both schools for three years, but it was eventually rejected by the Regents in part because of opposition from other community colleges.”
Despite these merger attempts, FHSU still has agreements with community and technical colleges that make transferring easier for students.
“FHSU continues to have cooperative arrangements of various types with several of the community colleges and technical colleges,” Steward said, “Especially notable are the 2-plus-2 agreements that enable degree-seeking students to transfer credits from community colleges to FHSU in a seamless manner.”
Further from home, FHSU partnered with Sias International University in Xinzheng, China in 2000.
“From a pilot program at Sias that had 50 FHSU students that first year, the partnership has grown to include other Chinese universities and an annual FHSU enrollment in China of about 3,500 students.”
In addition to partnerships in the world of academia, FHSU also partners with the private business sector.
“In April 2008, FHSU officials and representatives from the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association conducted a joint news conference to announce a new academic emphasis to meet a critical need in the state’s booming oil patch,” Steward said, “With funding of $555,000 from the oil industry, FHSU created two petroleum emphases in the geology degree program. The goal was to produce graduates with the expertise to meet the severe shortage of trained professionals in the petroleum industry.”
The FHSU-DCCC merger would create a 4 year university with a lower division for associates degrees, an upper division for baccalaureate, and a technical institute; it would build upon current infrastructure of the community college and current faculty would retain their jobs.
“The devil is in the details, as they say,” said Kent Steward, Director of University Relations at FHSU.
There is support from both communities and the Kansas Board of Regents, but it will ultimately rely on the Kansas Legislature to change State laws and agree upon a yearly ten million dollar appropriation for the Dodge City institution, Stewart said.
Don Woodburn, current DCCC president, voiced support of the merger this month at the Dodge City town hall meeting with FHSU president Mirta Martin.
“If you look out there five to ten years, and we have a regents university in this community, it will be fantastic,” Woodburn said, “As long as it’s done right. As long our steering committee puts this together where this community college and its functions stay intact. Because we can’t abandon this community. We can’t not pay attention to our kids and their only way to get an education, and there thousands of them, and thousands of them to come, and we need to make this happen and do it right.”
A map of FHSU partnerships with high schools, community colleges, technical institutes, and international universities shows the expansive reach of educational opportunity. Grey pinpoints represent high schools, gold pinpoints represent colleges and technical institutes, black pinpoints represent international universities.