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Martin tries to ease DCCC concerns

8/13/2014

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University President Mirta Martin dispelled concerns about the proposed merger of Dodge City Community College with FHSU at a Tuesday town hall meeting in Dodge City.

The board of DCCC, a two-year college in southwest Kansas, voted unanimously twice in four months to form a partnership with FHSU. The merger would allow DCCC to offer four-year programs through FHSU.

"The proposal to merge a community college into a state university would be a first for Kansas, and a project of that magnitude necessarily poses concerns," Martin said. "It is a challenging union. Therefore, we must trust each other and deal in fact. The proposed merger has the potential to produce tremendous benefits for southwest Kansas, so deliberations about implementing such a major project should be based on solid information. Should questions arise, they should be addressed openly. In an effort to ensure transparency, we have created a website and we encourage the community to use it."

The proposal still needs to be approved by the Board of Regents, but Dodge City community members have been expressing concerns about the implications of the merger.

"This is not a hostile takeover," Martin said. "This is a union. This is a marriage."

It would give Dodge City a four-year institution for the first time since 1992 when St. Mary of the Plains College closed.

"The idea of merging the two Kansas Board of Regents institutions did not originate in Hays," she said. "When St. Mary of the Plains College closed its doors, that left an entire quadrant of the state without a four-year institution other than tiny Barclay College in Haviland. Understandably, there have been calls during the more than 20 years since then to re-establish local access to four-year degrees. This union can accomplish that."

Former President Edward Hammond spoke briefly and said he was approached three years ago about the need for the merger.

"He said he would help make the merger a reality," Martin said, "if the state would provide sufficient resources to hold FHSU financially harmless and to create the kind of institution that could meet the educational needs of the people of southwest Kansas."

In addition, community members expressed concerns about a possible tax increase as a result of the merger.

Martin said a tax decrease would be more likely because the majority of costs would be covered in the FHSU budget.

"I aim to earn your trust, and I ask for you to give me a chance," she said. "I ask you to reject rumors and deal only with facts. Going forward, let's pursue this union knowing that at the end of the day, we all want the same thing -- ensuring that we provide an affordable and accessible quality education for Kansas's next generation of leaders. We need to retain our talent, not export it. Our youth, our communities must have access to the American dream. I am committed to making that our guiding star."

For more information, visit fhsu-dccc-merger.fhsu.edu.