Fort Scott partial merger details lost in jungle
Jay Benedict | reporter
Last week’s open forums left members of both Fort Scott Community College (FSCC) and Pittsburg State with a lot of questions. The ‘increased partnership’ is starting to become clearer, but there are still plenty of questions left unanswered.
FSCC President Clayton Tatro and PSU President Steve Scott asked the attendees of the open forums, held in Pittsburg and Fort Scott, to describe how they envisioned the relationship progressing while offering some general ideas.
Those ideas included PSU acting as the sole employer across both campuses and taking responsibility for facilities and maintenance, while also gaining access to FSCC students and programs that can benefit the university.
One example came from Detrea Rose, PSU director of diversity programs.
“They (FSCC) have one centralized place for advising and counseling,” Rose said. “We don’t have anything like that, and I think something like that could really benefit our students.”
Rose also mentioned that the proposed changes sound familiar.
“This sounds like the Arkansas model,” Rose said. “The University of Arkansas (UA) has a program that includes several community colleges that offer associate degrees and from those a student can pursue a bachelor’s from the main campus.”
The Arkansas system includes five satellite universities apart from the main campus in Fayetteville and five more community colleges scattered across the state.
Each community college is designated as being part of UA in the name and relinquishes most of its independence. For example, none have traditional sports teams or separate mascots. Although, Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas now has a rodeo team, just like FSCC does.
The schools do maintain separate accreditation, have their own foundations and local leadership much like PSU and FSCC hope to.
Another benefit of the system allows students in good academic standing to move easily from a two-year college to a full four-year university and earn a higher degree.
“We’re looking at models in Missouri, Kentucky and Utah.” Tatro said. “The Arkansas model is similar, but it’s not our primary basis.”
Tatro says the main model the group has been studying is Missouri State University (MSU) in Springfield and its other campus; Missouri State University – West Plains (MSU-WP).
Those two schools maintain mostly separate administration, endowments, accreditation and athletics. MSU has National Collegiate Athletics Association teams called the Bears and MSU-WP has National Junior Collegiate Athletics Association team represented by the Grizzlies.
Like the UA system, MSU-WP offers associate degrees and certificates and then allows students to transfer to MSU, if they wish, through the MSU Outreach Program.
A major difference is that MSU-WP was started as a satellite campus and Pitt State and Fort Scott are working in the opposite direction.
One issue raised by attendees last week were the differences in affordability.
“There’s a big difference in the cost per credit hour and we charge a $30 application fee, which they don’t have at Fort Scott,” said Penny Cook, assistant director for transfer relations.
Currently in the MSU system, it’s $111 to $126 per credit hour for most courses at the MSU-WP campus and $204 to $275 per hour at MSU.
FSCC students pay $87 to $90 per hour and Pitt students spend $209 to $227 per hour until they reach the flat rate tuition at $2,953 for anything over 12 hours.
“We’re still gathering information and we can’t say exactly what will change,” Tatro said. “This is still in the preliminary stages.”
Tatro says there will be another forum in Fort Scott on Sept. 9. After that, all the findings will be compiled and presented to FSCC’s board. There will also be a website created to address frequently asked questions and encourage more discussion.
“We want to move forward with this, but we want to make sure that everyone involved is behind it,” Tatro said. “We’ll be talking to a lot more people and hope to have a plan of action by the end of the semester.”
Scott did not reference other models as an inspiration, but focused on paving the way for Kansas.