President Mirta Martin issued a statement Monday about the failed merger between Fort Hays State University and Dodge City Community College.
“Fort Hays State University was prepared to continue the exploration of the merger, as approved twice by the Dodge City Community College Board of Trustees and as endorsed by the Kansas Board of Regents,” Martin said. “FHSU has always maintained that the decision to proceed or not to proceed with the merger was the responsibility of the Dodge City trustees. FHSU was ready to go forward; however, the Dodge City trustees changed their minds and do not wish to explore the merger. That is their decision, and FHSU will honor that decision.”
The statement from President Martin comes after a meeting of the Dodge City trustees last week in which action to continue the merger process under a counter proposal failed on a 3-3 vote. Prior to that meeting in Dodge City, the state Board of Regents removed its request for state funding for the merger in its legislative package, pending a show of unity and affirmation by the Dodge City trustees.
FHSU has a long history of forming both academic and industry-oriented partnerships in Kansas and abroad.
“FHSU has been involved in outreach education or community education to western Kansas since 1911,” said Kent Steward, director of university relations. “From that time forward as a practical manner we did a lot of different things as different needs would arise.”
FHSU has been involved with several community colleges over the years in attempts to form partnerships. Despite these merger attempts, FHSU still has agreements with community and technical colleges that make transferring easier for students.
“The private college, St. Mary of the Plains College, closed in the ’90s and that left not just Dodge City, but southwest Kansas without a four-year regents school,” Steward said. “So, Dr. Hammond was approached about two and a half years ago by some of the representatives who met from Dodge City asking if the university would have any interest in some sort of joint venture.”
The FHSU-DCCC merger would have created 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.
Originally, the plans outlined a separate, FHSU baccalaureate institution that would be adjacent to the campus of DCCC. It was then redefined that DCCC would cease to act strictly as a community college with the DCCC Board of Trustees taking the role of the taxing-district committee. As part of the merger, all of the current employees at DCCC would have become classified as Fort Hays State University employees.
“We wish Dodge City Community College and the people of southwest Kansas all the best and will continue to do everything we can to provide for any educational needs the community college cannot provide,” Martin said. “There are existing partnerships between Fort Hays State and all the community colleges in southwest Kansas that have enhanced educational opportunities in that part of the state, and we expect those cooperative efforts to remain strong into the future.”
While this proposal failed to come to fruition, it still leaves the door open to future partnerships.
“Nothing is going to happen right now initially,” Steward said. “The reason something may happen again sometime in the future is that with this merger talks ending southwest Kansas still does not have a significant institution that offers four-year degrees. My personal guess would be that some sort of effort will spring up eventually again to try to address that. A little time will have to pass before we know what if anything will happen next.”