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Brownback makes stop at Fort Hays

5/8/2013

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University was one of the final stops on Gov. Sam Brownback's tour of Regents institutions.

Brownback is visiting the campuses to emphasize his proposed budget that maintains higher education funding.

Approximately 13 percent of the state general fund budget goes to higher education, "and I'm asking the Legislature to hold that stable, a two-year funding platform for stability," Brownback said. "It allows people to plan. We're asking for a lot more out of our higher education institutions."

FHSU President Edward Hammond likened Brownback's plan to a wheel with integrated parts.

"It reduces state taxes and stabilizes (the) cost of government at a reasonable rate," he said. "That will produce the second part of the wheel which is growth in business and industry which adds jobs. The third part of that wheel, though, is (the) post secondary education environment."

Higher education produces the trained work force ready to fill those jobs, Hammond said.

"We can get in a pro-growth tax position and fund our core services," Brownback said.

Brownback joined Hammond and other FHSU officials Tuesday morning for a ground-breaking ceremony for the Center for Networked Learning.

The approximately 37,000-square-foot building on Dwight Drive will house the Virtual College, the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning Technology, the Department of Informatics, radio and television studios and laboratories for the information systems engineering program.

"We stand at the convergence of forces affecting higher education in absolutely unprecedented ways," said Chapman Rackaway, political science professor and past president of the faculty senate.

Rackaway said there is a need for new styles of teaching, student-to-faculty interaction and student peer mentorship.

"The old style of stand-and-deliver education ... is rapidly going away," Rackaway said.

Total cost of the new building is estimated at $10 million. The building is being paid for with private funds and fee funds collected during a period of time, Hammond said.

Kyle Calvin, student government association president, said his favorite part of the new building is "it hasn't come at the expense of the student."

"Neither student fees nor tuition were increased in order to construct the building," Calvin said. "Also, by not forcing students to foot the bill, we are effectively allowing more access to higher education."

Despite a trend of declining population, Brownback said, "We should be saying, what can we do to get things rolling. It may have to involve us moving and changing some, and doing some things differently, but we can do this. Fort Hays is a great model of how you do it -- where you provide quality education and you hold your price of tuition down."