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Barton Community College trustees mull funding models
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One version of a proposed funding formula for postsecondary technical education would, in theory, mean more money for Barton Community College. But, as the Kansas Technical Education Authority prepares to recommend a formula to the Kansas Board of Regents, college officials here say nothing is certain.

The TEA is set to make its recommendation later this month. Barton trustees discussed the latest developments Thursday during their monthly board study session.

The biggest problem with any new funding formula is that there’s no additional money being pumped into technical education funding, according to Barton trustee Mike Johnson, who is also president of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees. If the financial pie doesn’t get bigger, any formula that changes how the pie is sliced will create winners and losers.

Barton President Carl Heilman agrees.

"There would need to be $50 million to support this," Heilman said of the TEA worksheet that trustees reviewed Thursday. "It’s very risky; there are a lot of concerns, but at least we’re coming together with a package."

Dean Mark Dean and Dean Elaine Simmons explained the worksheet for TEA’s new approach to statewide tech ed funding. It starts with the assumption that funding should be based on what it costs to provide technical courses. There are several tiers of reimbursement rates, taking into account the extra costs involved in different types of courses. This may include higher teacher salaries and/or higher equipment costs in specialized fields. A course in nursing may cost more than a course in welding, for example.

In one scenario, TEA calculates that it cost Barton over $14 million to provide its technical education courses in Fiscal Year 2010. Actual state funding was less than $7.9 million. In a proposed tiered model, funding would be closer to $10.3 million. But, when this model is applied to the state’s 19 community colleges, six technical schools and the Washburn Institute of Technology, there is a gap of over $49 million between the total and what the state spent in Fiscal Year 2010.

"They’ve looked at several scenarios and voted last week," Simmons said. A decision to extend funding for courses taken by high school students is good for Barton. "We serve a lot of high school students."

Another decision, to extend funding for out-of-state students, could benefit the college in some instances, even though only 12 percent of its students fall into this category. For example, Barton is a training site for agricultural manufacturer Case-New Holland, and 60 percent of those students come from other states.

College officials note that all students at Fort Riley are funded as in-state students.

Technical colleges are already funded for out-of-state students, Dean said. Community colleges are not.

"Technical colleges don’t have taxing authority," Dean said. "Their money comes from tuition or state aid."

In some discussions on how to pay for the funding formula, TEA has suggested community colleges such as Barton would receive 70 percent of the state payout, and use their local mill levies to make up the difference, Dean said. "I don’t agree with that."

Another suggestion would be to extend taxing authority to technical schools.