Fort Hays State and Dodge City Community College merger is off

Fort Hays State University (KSN File Photo)

DODGE CITY, Kansas – Fort Hays State University and Dodge City Community College have been talking about the possibility of a merger, but after a Dodge City Board of Trustees meeting this week, it looks like the idea is dead in the water.

A merger between FHSU and Dodge City Community College had the potential to improve technical programs and increase student numbers.

“The advantages of the merger to us would be improved access for the students, providing four year opportunities, which they currently don’t have much access too,” said trustee Dr. Merrill Conant.

Fort Hays presented a proposal in February, which said their university would have operational control of the Community College, a point they said was non-negotiable.

“The college here would be dissolved. It would no longer be a community college,” said trustee Floris Jean Hampton.

Speaking with students, staff, and community members over the last few months, KSN found that many people were excited for potential opportunities, but it was the lack of a plan that made them nervous.

“Getting four year courses here was never disputed, but the numbers that kept coming through for the technology school were fabricated,” said biology professor Scott Thompson.

This week, Dodge City Community College came back with their own version of a plan that focused on more of a working partnership than a merger.

The six member board of trustees was split. Half wanted the college to have its input.

“When you have a proposal from one side, you need to have a proposal from the other side. Then you talk about it and negotiate,” argued Jean Hampton.

While the other half argued it was a plan that Fort Hays would never go for.

“A proposal in essence, kind of the reverse of what we had been working on,” said Dr. Conant.

On Tuesday, the community college’s Board of Trustees voted 3-3 on a proposal that recommended that Fort Hays become an upper division college and technical institute in Dodge City, with the Dodge City college remaining independent. And because it was a tie vote, the issue was dropped.

“That’s what really in effect, ended this process. The opportunity that we lost was to continue to talk,” said Dr. Conant.

The trustees said the college will continue looking for four year opportunities, but for now it will continue operating as it always has.

“Community colleges have a unique place, and that’s the reason they’ve been so successful,” said Dr. Conant.

The Kansas Secretary of Commerce is hosting a session the first week of December to discuss how universities and community colleges could better collaborate which could lead to future opportunities for schools like Dodge City.

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