- Associated Press - Friday, April 25, 2014

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) - The Dodge City Board of Trustees plans to negotiate a proposal to merge with Fort Hays State University with a goal of protecting the community college’s interests.

The college is considering a proposal to create an Institute of Applied Technology on the Dodge City campus, with Fort Hays State offering some four-year degree programs. The merger is a long way from happening and would have to be approved by the Kansas Board of Regents, the state Legislature and the governor.

The goals include such things as increasing educational offerings in Dodge City rather than replacing what is there; protecting existing partnerships with local school districts; ensuring the Dodge City board has input into tuition and budgeting and administering in a way that preserves accreditation and prevents significant debt increases for Ford County taxpayers.

When the plan was first publicly announced in March some Dodge City faculty and residents criticized the board for what they said was the secrecy of the negotiations and questioned if the community college would benefit from the merger. The goals announced by the trustees grew out of a public meeting Saturday, The Dodge City Daily Globe reported Thursday (https://bit.ly/1ikLXQX ).

Trustee Floris Jean Hampton said the negotiations should consider the views of people “who have worked with Dodge City Community College for 80 years and have served it well.

“I think they are owed more discussion and not being pressured into considering this a non-negotiable concept,” Hampton said, stressing that she is not saying the merger shouldn’t occur.

But after Hampton and Dodge City president Don Woodburn suggested a collaborative partnership, Board of Regents member Shane Bangerter said that Dodge City would have to give up control of academics and administration to Fort Hays. He said the Regents, Legislature and governor would not support a collaborative administration.

“It’s dead on arrival if that’s the issue. It’s been very clear if that’s an issue, we don’t even need to talk any further,” he said. “That’s the one thing in the white paper that is not negotiable.”

Bangerter said he hopes the Board of Regents will approve the proposal in the next few months so a funding request can be made in the next legislative session. If that happens, classes at “Fort Hays State University at Dodge City” could begin as soon as 2016 or 2017.

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Information from: The Dodge City (Kan.) Globe, https://www.dodgeglobe.com

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