Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback plans to give the annual State of the State address at 5 p.m. on Jan. 10.
The next day, Barton Community College President Dr. Carl Heilman and some members of the board of trustees plan to visit with legislators as the 2017 session gets underway.
Mike Johnson, chairman of the BCC Board of Trustees, has called the annual treks to Topeka “beneficial.” College representatives are able to make contact with many of the legislators in the BCC service area. This year Heilman suggested they also contact legislators from other areas who are involved in policy that affects higher education.
Johnson is president of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees, and he has been approved to serve on the Kansas Postsecondary Technical Education Authority, or TEA, starting in January. He has been appointed to the budget/finance committee.
A bill that will return in 2017 would allow a merger between Wichita State University and Wichita Area Technical College. This proposal was made last year but was withdrawn. It did not receive support from the KACCT, which represents the state’s 19 community college.
Johnson said the proposed merger is now being called an “affiliation.”
“That’s a very strategic move on their part,” Heilman said. Supporters will be able to cite precedence by noting Washburn University’s affiliation with the Washburn Institute of Technology.
“We don’t oppose the affiliation, but we do oppose some of the side effects for community college funding,” Johnson said.
That’s the same message KACCT Executive Director Linda Fund delivered when she visited Barton last April. A Feb. 11 bill introduced by Ways and Means to merge WSU with WATC was pulled because KACCT disagreed with the funding, Fund said in April. “I gave testimony that we are OK with a merger of two entities who want to merge,” she said. But she went on to explain that if WATC becomes part of WSU it shouldn’t be able to take money from the pool of community college funding.
The bill won’t be limited to WSU; it was written to allow for the merger or consolidation of any community college, technical college or institute with a state educational institution.