An update was given to city officials recently regarding the University Center for medical providers.

The University Center refers to any program that is not offered in area community colleges and not medical school.

Therefore the mid-level college will be coined as University Center which would possibly go into the Hennessy Hall facility in Dodge City.

The update stated that 30-39 percent of education attainment takes place in southwest Kansas which is for those who go beyond a high school education.

The partnership with the medical college will be with Fort Hays State University, Wichita State University and University of Kansas, as well as community colleges in Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal.

“The areas we will be focusing on are what our paths would look like in western Kansas,” consultant Terri McLain who was hired by city officials to collect data, analysis and assessments said. “We want to make certain we don’t have any overlap between any programs the universities may offer.

“When we think about Fort Hays what we are focusing on are their nursing programs, their radiology, and other areas they specialize in.

“When we talked with KU were focusing on respiratory, health information management and hopefully some longer terms as far as nurse anesthetist and with Wichita State we focused on two different levels of Bachelor’s in healthcare and then long-term hopes of physician assistant programs.”

As potential students go through high school programs, when wanting to go forward to either a university or community college, the programs a student would need that are not available by schools in the area, would be made at the University Center.

“We are now going to be identifying students,” McLain said. “What were focusing on is the working adult that wants to go back to school and obtain a degree to work in healthcare as well as the traditional high school that isn’t going to KU, Fort Hays or WSU and really doesn’t understand what is available beyond community college here.”

Some concerns have been raised by the Kansas Board of Regents with retaining students as the programs begin.

“When we were doing our research,” McLain said, “we were really trying to focus on showing that we can have this flow of students and I can do that through the employers.

“It is very difficult to get any idea of who those working adult students could be when you don’t have the mindset that there’s access to education in southwest Kansas.”

According to economic development director JoAnn Knight, another step that will be taken is setting up a community coalition for western Kansas.

“We feel it will be extremely important to build community coalitions across the region,” Knight said. “We’ve had conversations with Kansas Health Foundation and they haven’t specifically told us what they can do but are very interested in this.

“We also met with Network Kansas which they primary objective is to grow entrepreneurs and help businesses to expand in thinking of that it meets this goal too.

“WKREDA (Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance), which is the 55 counties of western Kansas, we have a community development group through that organization that is very interested in helping with this as well.”

Knight went on to say the coalitions need to be built in the western counties to pull the communities together that will need to be a mix of citizens, Adult Learning Center, community colleges and a lot of the employers.

“How do we get the employers to look at an individual that give them the opportunity to get the time and financial assistance to help them to grow,” Knight said. “The partnerships would also need to be with the physician leadership and the universities out here.”

Another aspect to the University Center would be that the classes would not be done online.

“We really feel that the center needs to be a support center,” Knight said, “because a lot of these are first generation students that need that classmate, that even if they get together once every week or two, they still have that resource and support place to go to to really help each other and have that live person whether on TV or in person to connect with.”

The plan would be to have each of the 28 counties that make up southwest Kansas to have a community coalition in place.