During a work session Thursday, the Hays City Commission heard funding requests from seven nonprofit outside agencies. The requests will be considered and voted on during the budget process this summer.
Fort Hays State University was among the agencies seeking funding to support its Hays City Scholarship Program. FHSU is requesting $125,000 this year, an increase from the $100,000 it has received from the city in previous years.
The increase is reflective of enrollment growth and increased efforts by the university to attract and retain more students, said Joey Linn, vice president for student affairs.
“The university is putting a lot more money into our overall scholarship program,” Linn said. “When you look at resources cut from the state … we are doing everything we can to increase enrollment, increase credit hours, increase our student body. That’s extremely important.”
The Hays City Scholars Award — previously known as the Hays City Silver Scholarship — has been increased from $800 to $1,500 renewable over a four-year period. If granted, the $125,000 would fund 56 awards for incoming freshmen and 27 awards per year for students who continue their education.
The city scholarship program was implemented in 1987. Since then, FHSU’s overall enrollment has more than doubled, and the number of students on campus this fall is expected to be a record high, Linn said.
The scholarship program started out awarding approximately 50 scholarships, and that number has increased to 386 scholarships awarded last year.
FHSU provides additional funds to the program if needed.
“There’s an emphasis on Kansas students more than anything receiving this,” Mayor Eber Phelps said. “I always said this is one of our best investments because to me, you put this money into the scholarship, but I think we realize this back in the community … when students start coming back for the fall semester.”
The other agency requesting a significant increase in city funding was the Ellis County Historical Society. The organization has received approximately $11,600 annually since at least 2013, and this year has submitted a request for approximately twice as much — $23,000.
Lee Dobratz, who began work as the agency’s new director in March, said she would like to see public funding from the city and Ellis County cover business operating expenses. That would allow proceeds from fundraisers to generate more special community events, she said.
“The things that public funding should fund in a museum … should be basic business expenses. Salaries, utilities, basic building upkeep, supplies, things like that, the real basics,” Dobratz said. “Unfortunately, at the level of public funding we’re at right now, and that includes the city and the county monies, we don’t come close.”
The other agencies seeking funding were: the CARE Council ($164,000), Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development ($87,550), Downtown Hays Development Corp. ($53,655), Hays Arts Council ($12,000) and Wild West Festival ($9,500).
The other agencies were seeking the same amount of funding received last year, except for an $800 increase in the Hays Arts Council request.
The city has allocated an annual total of $437,508 to the agencies since 2014.