Barton Community College will soon receive a $50,000 check, the latest dividend on a $125,000 investment made in 1999.
While that may seem like a pretty good return, college officials hinted last week that Barton’s arrangement with EduKan — the online education consortium paying the dividend -- may need to change in the future. However, trustees were mostly positive when they met with Dr. Mark Sarver, EduKan director.
EduKan was started by six community colleges: Barton, Colby, Dodge City, Garden City, Pratt and Seward County, to provide online access to courses. Individuals can take a course or earn an associate’s degree online. Each college made an initial $125,000 investment, and in recent years they have shared annual dividends.
"We’ve had another record year," Sarver told the trustees at the June 16 meeting. Last year, students earned 13,616 credit hours through EduKan, with over 2,000 coming from Barton. EduKan is seeing a growth in out-of-state students, which come from 40 states and account for nearly 30 percent of enrollments. Much of that can be attributed to Pratt Community College, which promoted its nursing program nationwide last year and saw a 72.5 percent increase in EduKan enrollment.
Recent innovations at EduKan include efforts to offer text-book free classes with study material available online, and biometric signature ID, which insures the person at the computer is actually the person enrolled in the course. This fall EduKan students will be able to check their grades and e-mail their professor using their mobile telephones.
EduKan is also testing a general education program taught in Spanish at Garden City. It includes English language lessons taught with the Rosetta Stone software that is also used to teach Spanish and other languages.
Mastery based classes, that allow students to progress at their own pace — fast or slow — by mastering the course concepts, are being offered on a trial bases through Seward County Community College.
A "Facebook-style" web page for the virtual college is also being tested, Sarver said.
Time for change?
EduKan was the first consortium of its kind, Sarver said. While there are many consortia, there are still few like it; the closest match is one in Iowa that was modeled after the Kansas consortium. EduKan has been so successful that four-year colleges at Salina and McPherson have entered or considered associate membership.
However, Barton trustees said there are reasons to consider changing the college’s relationship with EduKan. Unlike the other colleges in the consortium, Barton has developed its own online program, BartOnline.
Sometimes the two offer different courses, and sometimes a student has a choice. When BartOnline enrolls a student in a program available through EduKan, it pays a royalty to the consortium — a bone of contention with some trustees.
Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said the college is bound by agreement to promote EduKan, although it also promotes BartOnline. The price per credit, starting in January, will be $130 for EduKan and $130 for BartOnline.
Last Thursday’s trustees meeting, where Sarver gave his report, was the final board meeting for board members Frank McKinney and Paul Maneth, the chairman. Neither sought reelection and new members will be sworn it at the July meeting.
Maneth mentioned the royalties that Barton pays to EduKan, saying he hopes future boards will address that. "We are penalized for BartOnline," he said. "It’s an issue that needs to be looked at."
Trustee Mike Johnson said he agreed, but said of EduKan, "It’s been a good consortium agreement for Barton."
Sarver mention one major change that could have an impact on EduKan and other online college. Pending federal regulations could require online colleges to follow the regulations of the state where their students reside. This could force EduKan to sign an agreement in each state where it has a presence. In some cases it could involve fees; in others, it could be a simple matter of registration.
On member of Congress has challenged this pending legislation as an infringement on interstate commerce, akin to forcing eBay to get a business license in every state, Sarver said.