Pratt Community College is seeking the relationship in an attempt to lower the community college's mill levy, the highest in the state.
In the first move of its kind under the reconstituted Board of Regents, a community college is asking to affiliate with a state university.
If the regents vote this fall to allow Pratt Community College to affiliate with Fort Hays State University, the board will gain governance over the academic programs on the Pratt campus.
Under the law reconstituting the board, which became effective this summer, the regents coordinate all of higher education, but they directly govern the six state universities including Kansas University. Governance means setting general and individual policies for the universities, approving budgets and academic programs and appointing the chief executives at the universities.
Community colleges are governed by local boards of trustees. Under the proposal for affiliation between Pratt and Fort Hays, the Pratt Board of Trustees would continue to have authority over the campus facilities.
The seven-member Pratt Board of Trustees is formally requesting the affiliation between the two schools.
"There are several reasons to do it," said Bruce Benson, chairman of the Pratt board. "We hope to get a tax break. " We are one of the smaller community colleges, but we have the highest mill levy. We hope it will be good for economic development for Pratt."
Kent Steward, Fort Hays director of university relations, said Pratt recently has had to dip into its reserves to fund operations.
Another force driving the proposed affiliation is a change in educational needs, said Ed Hammond, Fort Hays president.
"The old model is not workable," Hammond said. "Under the old model you went to elementary school, high school and post-secondary once. We now have an in-and-out educational environment. We need to have flexibility.
"We believe this is a model for the future."
The regents Commission on Higher Education Coordination will take up the proposed affiliation in October. If the commission approves, the proposal goes to the full board for consideration.
Regents are getting their first chance to look at the proposal, said board Executive Director Kim Wilcox.
"The proposal Pratt has forwarded, the board hasn't had a chance to look at," Wilcox said. "It's like a proposal for marriage, but the bride hasn't answered yet."
It's unclear whether legislative action will be needed to make Fort Hays State University at Pratt a reality.
"I don't think it has to go to the Legislature," said Mary Prewitt, associate general counsel for the regents.
But Hammond thinks the Legislature will have to approve the affiliation.
The earliest an affiliation agreement may take effect, he said, would be July 1, 2000, which is the start of the next fiscal year.
One of the questions that will need to be worked out is what happens to students who do not meet the regents universities residency requirement. Before qualifying for in-state tuition, a student wanting to attend a state university must live in the state for at least a year without attending college. At community colleges, the residency requirement is six months. Students caught in the midst of the transition would be exempt from the requirement, Hammond said.
About 3,000 students attend Pratt, which is about 120 miles south of Hays. It has a budget of about $10 million.
About 5,400 students attend Fort Hays. Its state general use budget, which includes state general fund money and tuition, is about $38 million. Its total budget for this year is about $57 million.
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