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Kansas State University issues warning about Salina tech school merger


Kansas State University could be forced to close its Salina campus if an area technical school merges with a community college that could offer cheaper classes, a Kansas State official says.

Dennis Kuhlman, dean of Kansas State University at Salina, acknowledged the warning issued Monday during a meeting with city leaders was a worst-case scenario.

But, he added, “I’ve talked with legislators, with people at the Board of Regents, and asked if they think it’s outside the realm of possibility, and no one does. I think it’s a risk we have to consider. Is it reality? I don’t know, but it can’t just be dismissed.”

The Salina Area Technical School is seeking a partner after the Legislature mandated that the state’s remaining technical schools either become degree-granting colleges or merge with one within the next couple of years.

The school is considering merger proposals from Hutchinson Community College, Cloud County Community College, and a joint plan by Kansas State at Salina and the North Central Kansas Technical College in Beloit.

Kansas State officials plan to invoke a state law that allows state universities to prohibit a state community college from teaching classes in a county where the state university has a campus. But Kuhlman noted the Salina School Board, which will decide the fate of the technical school, “seems to have taken the attitude that the statute can be changed.”

The Salina School Board is set to vote on the issue next week.

If a community college partner is picked, Kuhlman said it’s likely that many freshmen and sophomores would enroll there for lower-level classes, costing Kansas State about $1 million in lost tuition revenue.

“The question has to be asked: Could K-State at Salina continue to exist with only juniors and seniors?” Kuhlman said.

Kansas State President Jon Wefald said Monday afternoon that he also has concerns.

“If an institution from outside Saline County can come in and do general education courses … that could take away many of the lower division students,” he said. “Many are using K-State Salina as a jumping-off point, taking some early courses and then transferring to K-State, or Wichita State, or a community college.”

Early on, Kuhlman said, the thinking at Kansas State and North Central Kansas Technical College had been, “How can this not be a slam dunk? It was about last week, we realized the way the community was talking, we needed to address the worst-case scenario, and let people know.”

Among those attending Monday’s meeting was Carol Brandert, president of the Salina School Board, who said it appeared the board might have little choice, given Kansas State’s plans to not allow another college to move in.

“I was hoping our procedure would be considered fair by all entities involved,” she said. “But a choice that is no choice isn’t a choice. If K-State says it won’t allow another entity to provide any classes, that’s it.”

Information from: The Salina Journal,

–Associated Press

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