Dodge City In a bid to staunch the brain drain from southwest Kansas, Dodge City Community College president Richard Burke has proposed establishing a two-year, upper-level or "senior college" on the campus of the former St. Mary of the Plains College.
According to Burke, who developed the idea two years ago, the addition of senior college degree programs in Dodge City would augment programs offered by public junior colleges in southwest Kansas, including Seward County Community College and Garden City Community College.
Southwest Kansas is the only quadrant of the state that lacks a publicly supported four-year college.
The proposed Western Kansas Regents Center could also help end the flow of talented young people who never return after completing their degrees elsewhere in the state, Burke said.
"If people in southwest Kansas can't find good educational opportunities here, they leave," Burke said. "What we're trying to do is grow our own."
Burke's plan has been endorsed by the Western Kansas Regents Center Task Force, which will meet today on the DCCC campus to consider a financial feasibility plan for submission to the next Kansas Board of Regents meeting in January.
Also studying the issue is the Southwest Kansas Access Group, a regents-appointed task force organized in May. The group is led by state Sen. Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson.
St. Mary of the Plains College opened in the fall of 1952 as a liberal arts college affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and operated by the Sisters of Charity of Wichita. It closed in the spring of 1992 after a string of financial problems.
"It was a real loss to this whole area when we closed. You just can't imagine how much," said Janet Kliesen, who served as the college's last director of public relations in 1992.
Kliesen said she has received numerous messages recently from alumni supportive of the regents center proposal.
"If they knew that it would be fully used for educational purposes, our alumni could provide a lot of support," Kliesen said. "The alumni are concerned that eventually everything will be bulldozed down."