Garden City Community College to offer four-year degrees




An offering of baccalaureate programs is on the very near horizon at Garden City Community College. Plans are in the works at GCCC to begin offering baccalaureate programs through National American University (NAU), a private higher education institution with 37 campuses in 11 states across the country. At Monday night's board of trustees meeting, officials from National American University visited campus and presented information regarding some of the baccalaureate programs they can offer at GCCC.

Dr. Ron L. Shape, chief executive officer of NAU, Dr. Lynn Priddy, provost, and Dr. Robert Paxson, president of online operations, at NAU, presented general information about NAU.

In a separate interview, Dr. Herbert Swender said that GCCC has been in discussions with NAU for the past couple of years and that business is one baccalaureate program he sees as a viable one for GCCC.

"We have so much new retail business coming to the area, that they're needing managers, that they're needing supervisors, and I think that would dovetail very nice with what's — complement what's going on in Finney County right now, so I think that would be a signature program right out of the shoot," Swender said. "I'll tell you another one that really — since we have such a successful criminal justice program — that it could dovetail into a baccalaureate for that, as well."

Another possibility is in allied health.

Dr. Ron L. Shape, chief executive officer at NAU, said that through NAU, nurses enrolled in the RN program at GCCC could have the option of continuing their education at GCCC in pursuit of a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing, or BSN.

"There's other allied health programs. There's a bachelors degree in health care management, so there are other ways to look at that program, but I wanted to hit the RN because of the importance that medical institutes, hospitals and clinics are placing on hiring the BSN," Shape said. "It gives an opportunity for the students graduating here, where that need exists, an opportunity to differentiate themselves with a bachelor's degree on top of the registered status as a nurse."

Shape said they are still very much in the discussion phase, but will be working closely with GCCC to determine which baccalaureate courses are the best fit.

"We're still a few months off, but looking pretty serious at it," Sharp said.

Dr. Robert Paxson, president of operations at NAU, said the university has similar arrangements at other community colleges.

"We have partnerships with Cloud, Pratt, Cowley, we're doing some work with Butler Community College, and we have strong ties to community colleges throughout the nation," Paxson said.

Sharp said that NAU's main goal is to provide degree completion opportunities to students.

"We first and foremost want the students to finish what they have here before they would look at doing anything with us. That's a huge part of the relationship. The relationship that the student develops here, with the faculty, the staff, with the community is just a huge part of the success, and for us to be able to bring it here, and keep the student here, we think, is the best both worlds," he said.

Swender said that NAU will bring in its own faculty but that opportunities will be available to GCCC faculty to teach baccalaureate courses, as well.

"We're hoping to be able to tap some of the local talent here to help with some of these classes. And they (NAU) will hire some people, but I think it would be an opportunity for our employees or our faculty to consider teaching some baccalaureate courses," he said, adding that it will be in addition to their current loads but that it will be entirely voluntary on the instructors' part. "We have many faculty doing those things now for some of the other universities in Kansas (online), so there's a model already in place."

When asked if GCCC has the facility space available to accommodate additional NAU offerings, Swender said they are looking at a number of different ways of addressing that.

"We're going to look at the entire campus and see where we have some other programs — you know, that we could consolidate some locations. But we've looked into, 'How can we more efficiently provide opportunities,' so depending on class sizes, we may move some classes around, but I think we'll be able to handle it just fine," he said. "We have some programs that are non-instructional that have been, oh some different grants and other programs, that we can use some of the space that has been restricted in the past that we'll open up and put back into the instructional side of the house. Through scheduling, we'll make it work."

In terms of costs and revenues associated with offering baccalaureate, Swender said that some type of contractual agreement will be arranged between NAU and GCCC and he said that aspect is one of other details that have yet to be ironed out. He said that the overall goal is to provide more accessibility to students.

"There are a lot of synergies going on across education right now and the main thing is, how do we offer more access and opportunity without having to — people can't just hop in a car and drive, two, three, five, eight hours, or whatever," he said. "It shouldn't be a disadvantage to be in Garden City, Kansas if your pursuit is a baccalaureate — that we can bring it right here."

NAU has similar partnerships with Cloud County Community College, Pratt Community College, Butler Community College and Cowley Community College.

The decision on whether to move forward with NAU will ultimately fall on the board of trustees, but that too, will occur at a later date.

The trustees also held an executive session Monday night, in which they discussed the terms of a possible a property acquisition.

Dee Wigner, executive vice president, said that details, such as cost, location, or projected cost, won't be released at this time.

"We're just getting permission to do negotiations," Wigner said, adding that they discussed terms, such as cost, during executive session.

Wigner was unable to comment on possible uses of the property, and said financing will be contingent upon price.

"If we are successful in our negotiations, we'll go back to the board for final approval," she said.

Trustees also approved a separation agreement between Steven Thompson, former computer science instructor at GCCC.

According to Agenda No. III-D in the trustees' packet. Thompson submitted a request to resign immediately, in exchange for compensation agreed to be paid to him by GCCC.

Terms of the separation agreement weren't available as of press time.

Thompson taught computer science courses at the college, but has been on a leave of absence from GCCC since Sept. 2013.

Since then, the same computer science courses have continued to be offered, but Dr. Bruce Exstrom, vice president of instructional services, said they are going to seek to fill Thompson's former position.

"Now that it's official, we'll put plans together to move on for next fall," Exstrom said.

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