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Low funds, high enrollment affecting MATC’s programs

By Bryan Richardson

Manhattan Area Technical College is experiencing growing pains.

MATC enrollment is increasing rapidly, yet state funding has not matched that growth.

The college currently has more than 1,300 students, an enrollment increase of 200 percent in nine years.

Rob Edleston, MATC president and CEO, said the college generated 10,000 credit hours with $2.1 million supplied by the state in 2006, the same amount the college currently receives despite nearly doubling the credit hours generated.

“This college has the potential to continue growing exponentially, but the resources are hampering that growth and the opportunities throughout the region,” Edleston said.

A potential decision to become a community college to alleviate some of the school’s financial issues has been put on hold for potentially as long as two years.

“Two years is a long time when you’re living payday to payday,” Edleston said.

The MATC board of directors recently decided to indefinitely suspend the surgical technology program at the end of the academic year due to the “non-recoverable cost of the program.”

The college has shared the program with Seward County Community College, which is the host institution, since the 2009-10 academic year.

“Someday we may ramp it back up if we need to,” Edleston said.

Essentially, low enrollment caused the halting of the program. Since the program’s start, fewer than 25 people completed the program.

Marilyn Mahan, MATC vice-president of instructional services, said a lack of resources limited to the program to accepting an average of eight students per year.

“It wasn’t that there wasn’t interest in the program,” she said. “There were other external factors that didn’t allow us to accept everyone that wanted in.”

A grant during the first year funded equipment to be set up at Geary Community Hospital, but the remaining years of the program were funded through the state and student revenue.

Jane Bloodgood, MATC vice-president of business services, said the college recognizes it takes three to five years to gauge the response to any new program.

She said it’s difficult to have cost recovery with any program with numbers that low.

“As much as we’d love to offer those programs, we have to think about the limited resources we have,” Bloodgood said.

This is a part of the larger problem that MATC officials have been dealing with related to finances.

Edleston said the disadvantage of being a technical college rather than a community college is not having a “third arm of funding” from local taxes.

Last year, MATC commissioned a community college transition study with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

MATC officials said this would allow the college to provide more opportunities for its students – and also help K-State through transferrable credit.

“Really, our status as a community college would be more of a benefit to K-State than any other entities,” Edleston said.

However, Edleston said progress has been slowed as Kansas State and the University of Kansas discuss changes in their admission requirements.

He said the study is less precise without knowing what will happen.

Edleston admitted the administration is “antsy.”

“Unfortunately, the vines grow slowly on higher education and our need to become a community college is growing a bit faster,” he said.

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