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Southwest Kansas Community Colleges Aim To Boost Collaboration

DODGE CITY, Kan. — Community colleges in southwest Kansas are discussing ways to work together to lobby state lawmakers and deal with staffing shortages.

Trustees and administrators of the Garden City, Dodge City and Seward County community colleges met Monday for their annual dinner.

“I think this is a great time for us to start thinking regionally,” Dodge City Community College President Richard Burke said.

The community colleges face critical staffing shortages in certain areas. As a large percentage of current faculty approaches retirement age, the situation is expected to get worse.

The three schools must figure out how to share resources, whether that means broadcasting classes to another community or requiring students to travel for clinical instruction, officials said.

The initiative also could create new opportunities for schools that have not set up some expensive programs.

“The reason a lot our institutions have not established those high-cost programs is because of the faculty cost,” said Seward County Community College President Duane Dunn.

Particularly when it comes to nursing programs and other medically related fields, Burke said, it is critical the colleges look for common solutions.

“I think it’s really important we lay down our swords and work together on this,” Burke said.

Garden City Community College President Carol Ballantyne noted that Colby Community Colleges dental hygienist program is broadcast out of Wisconsin.

“I think as a group we need to go after that, too,” Ballantyne said.

Another concern facing the schools is state funding. Burke said the formula used to calculate how funds are distributed to the 19 state community colleges is facing some retooling.

Burke said the current system, in which schools are awarded money based on the amount of growth, doesn’t always work out for southwest Kansas.

“Dodge City has increased and in some years we’ve lost money,” Burke said, because the school’s growth has been outpaced by growth at other colleges.

–Associated Press

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