Student leaders from across Kansas would like to be an integral part of higher education coordination.
Kansas University student senators will decide tonight whether to urge state officials and lawmakers to include student representation in the debate on higher education coordination.
"We just kind of hope to be more a part of the process than we have been in the past," said KU senior and student senator Seth Hoffman. "We're trying to correct that."
A resolution to be introduced at the senate meeting formally requests representation on a coordinating board, if the higher education task force created by Gov. Bill Graves decides such a board should be created.
At a hearing Thursday in Topeka, Board of Regents chairman Bill Docking, community college representatives and others will present the various proposals to the task force.
If a senate approves the resolution, KU Student Senate legislative director Korb Maxwell will request at the Thursday hearing that a student role be added to the proposals.
"It really gets our message to policy-makers better," Maxwell said. "Right now it's so easy for them to say, that's a cute little proposal or that's a nice little plan. It's so easy for them to smile at us when we make a presentation and not hear any more."
In other states, students are represented on governing boards.
"Kansas is just kind of behind as far as that's concerned," said Hoffman, who co-sponsored the senate resolution. "... It's just kind of a paradox. If the governor appointed a special governance committee on farms, he wouldn't leave farmers out of the situation."
During the regents monthly meeting in October, student leaders from the six regents campuses and 10 of the state's 19 community colleges agreed representation was long overdue.
Issues such as clarity on transferring courses from community colleges to universities, financing and program assessment affect students every day, they say.
Tom Bryant, interim executive director of the Board of Regents, said the task force would have to determine the makeup of any coordinating agency before making a final recommendation to Graves.
Kansas State President Jon Wefald, a governor's task force member, said student representation on a coordinating agency probably would be beneficial.
But Ken Havner, regents vice chair and a member of the task force, said it would be difficult to identify one student who could represent the entire student constituency.
"It's hard for me to see it at this point," Havner said.
The Student Advisory Council, he said, already performs the much-needed function of keeping regents abreast of issues affecting students.
"We certainly hope that we are representing those interests when we make policy decisions," Havner said.
Maxwell said labeling students as mere constituents was unfair.
"We are what higher education is set up for," Maxwell said.
As far as Thursday's discussion in Topeka, Havner said the main concerns were for institutions of higher learning to work together on master planning, geographic coordination and dispute resolution.
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