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Archive for Thursday, October 14, 1999

REGENTS SAY FORT HAYS-PRATT MERGER TOO EXPENSIVE

October 14, 1999

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The Board of Regents questioned the reasons for a Pratt-Fort Hays affiliation.

The Kansas Board of Regents told Pratt Community College and Fort Hays State University officials the price tag for a merger of the two schools is too high.

During the first meeting in Lawrence on Wednesday of the board's Commission on Higher Education Coordination, the regents heard the proposal to make Pratt a satellite campus of Fort Hays State.

Under the proposal, the state would have to make up $2.5 million that currently comes from Pratt County property taxes to operate the community college. Pratt already is receiving about $2 million in state funding this year.

"I'm concerned by the magnitude of the annual transfer from local to state resources," said William Docking, board chairman and commission member.

"I wonder if there wouldn't be many, many community colleges that would find property tax relief so attractive," Docking said. "I'm concerned we would be setting a precedent. There wouldn't be statewide resources available to fund them all."

Pratt President Bill Wojciechowski said the primary purpose of the affiliation is not tax relief for Pratt County property owners, but to provide educational services unavailable to residents of the area.

"We want to do this so our people have access to the same opportunities as the people in eastern Kansas and in Wichita," Wojciechowski said.

FHSU President Ed Hammond said the question may not be one for the regents to resolve.

"I'm not sure the Board of Regents can answer that," Hammond said. "I think only the Kansas Legislature can answer that."

In September, the chairman of the Pratt Community College Board of Trustees told the Journal-World the main reason for the requested affiliation was to provide property tax relief.

Regents Vice Chairman Clay Blair III asked if Pratt wants to provide bachelor's degree programs on its campus, why it didn't allow Fort Hays to offer programs on the campus without the affiliation.

Hammond said such programs already were in operation.

Under the proposal, the regents would govern the Pratt campus. This would give the board authority to set academic policies, approve academic programs and appoint the campus chief executive officer, who would be a vice president under Hammond.

The Pratt trustees would continue to oversee campus facilities and operate local collegiate athletic programs.

Hammond and Wojciechowski said it may be possible to find ways to reduce the cost of the affiliation.

Commission Chairman Fred Kerr, who is from Pratt, asked the two schools to prepare a detailed presentation for the board's November meeting. The commission will not vote on the proposal before its December meeting.

If the commission approves the merger, it must go to the full board for approval. It may then have to go to the Kansas Legislature for final approval.

-- Erwin Seba's phone message number is 832-7145. His e-mail address is eseba@ljworld.com.

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