Kansas University officials may not have cause to be miffed at Emporia State University for infringing on KU’s “geographic service area,” but a proposal for Emporia to offer bachelor’s degrees in education at Johnson County Community College has other issues that the Kansas Board of Regents should consider.
The board’s Academic Affairs Committee agreed Tuesday to delay consideration of Emporia’s proposal for at least a month. The intention was to allow interested parties to discuss the matter further.
During that time, the regents also should have some discussions of their own about the remote programs being offered by both community colleges and state universities who are under the board’s umbrella.
On Tuesday Regent Ed McKechnie took what many people would consider a well-deserved shot at KU, saying “The criticism of KU is they only teach what they want, when they want, where they want with no concern for the student.”
If the KU School of Education tried harder to accommodate students from the Kansas City area by offering more night classes in Lawrence or additional classes at the Edwards Campus in Johnson County, there might have been less of an opportunity for Emporia at JCCC. Complaining about Emporia coming into KU’s “geographic” area seems a little childish.
Nonetheless, KU’s argument that they hadn’t pursued such opportunities because the Kansas City market is over-saturated with teachers programs should give the regents cause for pause.
Over the years, the regents have repeatedly expressed concern about program duplication at state universities, asking whether the state really needs, for instance, law schools at both KU and Washburn or duplicate engineering programs at different universities. At the same time, however, they’ve allowed community colleges to set up all kinds of remote programs that reached far beyond their campuses. Those schools have spent considerable money offering classes and building new facilities in cities that are hundreds of miles from their home campuses. In many cases, those cities already had similar programs either in their city or within a reasonable distance.
Making education convenient for students is one thing, but the proliferation of competing programs across the state involves the kind of wasteful spending that should concern the regents. In fact, it was noted at Tuesday’s meeting that Emporia already operates a program at Kansas City Kansas Community College that’s similar to the one proposed at JCCC. Why do they need another program just a few miles away?
KU should try harder to address the criticism cited by McKechnie, but the regents also should be concerned about state universities and community colleges spending state resources to extend their reach into areas where their services aren’t really needed.