FHSU President Tisa Mason. Photo courtesy of FHSU
BY TISA MASON
HAYS – The future of rural Kansas is at a crossroads. Decades of shrinking and aging populations have robbed our communities of the critical human capital that fuels and sustains economic prosperity. A series of informal conversations between Eric Burks, President of North Central Kansas Technical College, Ben Schears, President of Northwest Kansas Technical College, and myself quickly resulted in a shared vision of what we could do, working closely together, to make things better Contributing future to the communities we serve.
In January, this shared vision evolved into a comprehensive plan for voluntary strategic membership to align the efforts of our three institutions. Over the course of a few weeks in mid-January, this plan was proposed and accepted unanimously and enthusiastically by the three Boards of Directors that oversee our institutions. We are deeply grateful to the Area of Board Control, the governing body for Northwest Tech, the NCK Tech Board of Trustees, and the Kansas Board of Regents. These confirmations have given our connection plan an invaluable early boost.
At the end of January, our plan was introduced as Bill 2290 of the Kansas House of Representatives. Fortunately, we have enjoyed strong support from several organizations and leaders in our community. We have been blessed to include in our legislative package strong written endorsements from the City of Hays, the Kansas Chamber, the Hays Chamber and Mark Hess, Vice President of Sales and Services for Hess Services, Inc. based in Hays.
On February 21, 2023, HB2290 was brought before the House Higher Education Budget Committee chaired by Steven Howe. We were honored to be joined at the hearing by WSU Tech President Sheree Utash, who strongly endorsed the proposed legislation on behalf of the Kansas Association of Technical Colleges. As no objection was filed or presented to the committee, the proposed connection plan law passed unanimously. On March 2nd, HB2290 was passed by the entire Kansas House of Representatives. The bill was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on March 6.
We are overwhelmed and eternally grateful for the tremendous support we have received since this plan was launched in early January. While this legislation still has several phases to go through, we are confident that this is the right follow-up plan at the right time for rural Kansas. We believe our efforts will create stronger connections between our three institutions, our students, and the communities and businesses we serve.
Please follow our strategic affiliation initiative and share your feedback and questions online at fhsu.edu/affiliation.