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Community colleges support new funding model
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Kansas community colleges are supporting a proposed cost model for technical education, but advising legislators not to fund vocational schools at their expense.

Staff from the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees and four community college presidents met with freshman legislators in Topeka on Jan. 11. Barton Community College President Dr. Heilman shared the talking points and 2011 legislative agenda, which includes those issues, along with reinstituting a program and tax credits for deferred maintenance.

KACCT Director Linda Fund said the Technical Education Authority spent about two years working on a model to determine the actual cost of technical education, which has been approved by the Kansas Board of Regents.

"The cost model itself will be a legislative proposal by KBOR," Fund said. "It is based on data to show what the actual cost of a technical course is — the hope being that at some point the legislature would appropriate money to fulfill the actual cost. ... The cost model makes good sense for community colleges," she added.

General education or non-technical courses were also calculated, but KACCT wants the community college distribution formula removed from statute.

After Governor Brownback presented his budget plan, Heilman told Barton trustees, "I was extremely surprised that there were no cuts (for community colleges)." He isn’t expecting any new money, but said if all things stay the same, including the college’s rate of growth, the net effect on Barton should be neutral.

KACCT, using a slogan that resembles Barton’s "driven" brand, is promoting Kansas community colleges as "the driving force" is fueling the economy. Funded largely by the taxpayers of 18 counties, the state’s 19 community colleges serve nearly 130,000 students annually who take courses for credit, and another 60,000 students in non-credit offerings. The state also has six technical colleges, plus the Washburn Institute of Technology.

KACCT notes the community colleges provide nearly 85 percent of all of the technical education and training in Kansas public higher education. State funding accounts for less than 25 percent of the community colleges’ budgets.

Barton trustees also plan to travel to Topeka on Feb. 7, in lieu of their monthly study session, to meet with legislators.