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Proposal to merge Kansas Institutions cancelled: plan scuttled amid autonomy concerns for Dodge City Community College.

Dodge city, Kan. (AP) -- A proposal to merge Dodge City Community College into Fort Hays State University has collapsed after leaders of the Dodge City institution split on whether to support the plan.

The merger had sparked controversy since it was first announced this spring. Supporters said it would help the Dodge City economy and provide more educational opportunities in western Kansas. Opponents were concerned it would dilute the community college's educational mission and disrupt the current faculty and staff.

The original proposal would have made Fort Hays the first public four-year degree-granting college in southwest Kansas, while developing an Institute of Applied Technology in Dodge City. But because of backlash associated with that plan, a separate proposal was submitted calling for Dodge City Community College to remain independent while creating an upper-division college and technical institute in the city that would be managed by Fort Hays. It also would have allowed Dodge City to consider partnerships with other four-year colleges and offered no incentives to the state.

But the community college's Board of Trustees voted 3-3 on that compromise proposal. The vote essentially stopped the merger because the Kansas Board of Regents had asked the Dodge City board for a strong show of support before it made its budget recommendations for the next fiscal year, The Dodge City Daily Globe reported (http://bit.ly/111CJxY).

Before the vote, Trustee Floris Jean Hampton said she believed the counter proposal was a good starting point for negotiations, noting that the board was not asked for its input before the merger plan was introduced.

But Regent Shane Bangerter, saying he was speaking only as a Dodge City resident, was frustrated by the vote. He said the merger would have meant millions of dollars in new revenue for the city, and that the "most painful" loss was a chance to provide a regent institution in western Kansas.

"This is a huge and sad loss for our community, and shows that it matters greatly whom we elect and hire to shepherd our institutions," he said.

Fort Hays spokesman Kent Steward said the school would honor Dodge City's decision. This was Fort Hays' third unsuccessful attempt to create a branch campus in western Kansas.

"One of the things that drove this, not just on our part, but with the regents and people who were for it in (Dodge City), we think people in southwest Kansas don't have as much access to higher education that we think they should have," he said. "This hasn't changed."

Information from: The Dodge City (Kan.) Globe, http://www.dodgeglobe.com

OPPOSITION

Opponents were concerned that the merger would dilute the community college's mission and disrupt the current faculty and staff.

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Title Annotation:money tree
Publication:Community College Week
Geographic Code:1U4KS
Date:Dec 8, 2014
Words:450
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