Washburn Regents considering takeover of technical school

Travis Perry

With recent advents and changes being made, the governing body that controls Kaw Area Technical School could change. Work is in progress on bringing KATS under the Washburn Board of Regents. This would not only bring greater coordination between the two schools but would also solve the funding woes that KATS, as well as many other technical schools across the state, have been experiencing.

The current system allows KATS students to concentrate on one of the many programs offered at Kaw Tech. After the program is completed, their credits can then be transferred as block credits in their area of study. The student only needs to take the appropriate number of general education classes in order to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree. In addition, students who do this program are allowed to attend at a reduced tuition rate. This collaboration between KATS and Washburn has been in effect for the past 10 years.

“This is not a done deal yet,” said Richard Hoffman, director of KATS. “It’s one option of four options that the Kansas Board of Regents has offered to all technical schools in the state. The main problem facing most technical schools in Kansas is the lack of funding they’ve received over the past 10 years, especially when compared with community colleges that they compete against.”

During the previous decade, technical schools received only an 18 percent increase in funding, which is less than two percent per year. In sharp contrast, community colleges have been given a 76 percent increase in funding.

“It is the lack of funding that we have now that is causing us to look at a plan like this,” said Hoffman.

Beside coming under the Washburn Board of Regents, other options have been made available to KATS. As stated by Board of Regents Chair Nancy Paul in a letter to Washburn President Jerry B. Farley, KATS can “return to the K-12 system, become a technical college, merge with a two or four institution or become a branch campus of a vocational technical college system.”

All options, however, require that KATS change their governing system.

Since this is not yet a completed project, there are many more steps that need to be taken in order for the change to be complete. First of all, a written proposal will need to be submitted to a steering committee from USD 501, which is the current governing body of KATS. Then there will need to be approval before the school boards of the 17 other districts that are involved with Kaw Tech. Finally, legislation will need to be passed, as well as final approval by the Board of Regents.

“The focus is on students,” said Tom Ellis, special assistant to the president. “We’ve had students over the years who have started at vo-tech and have ended with masters degrees [at Washburn].”

While the Washburn and KATS administrations are in discussions right now, it will be some time before things start to become finalized.

“This is something that no one is wanting to rush into,” said Hoffman. We’re going to take it a little slower than some people may like, but by doing so we’re going to make sure we get it right the first time.”