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MATC eyes an upgrade

By Burk Krohe

The head of Manhattan Area Technical College informed Riley County commissioners this morning on the college’s plan to “take the next steps.”

Rob Edleston, president and CEO of MATC, said the college has come a long way since its beginnings almost 50 years ago, but it should move forward and become a full-fledged community college.

“The time has come to continue the metamorphosis,” Edleston said.

Edleston believes a community college could serve the interests of Kansas State University and Manhattan Christian College.

“Community colleges are actually an enhancement to universities, taking care of a great deal of developmental education and catching those students who have fallen off the ladder or tried to graduate through Aggieville,” Edleston said.

The transition to a community college would entail an expanded curriculum related to a transfer program. Edleston said it would allow students to complete two years at the community college and move to a university. He added that MATC envisions working in cooperation with K-State and MCC.

The college doesn’t want to make the move without data to support it, though. That’s why MATC plans to contract with the National Center for High Education Management Systems, a firm from Boulder, Colorado, to perform a transition study. The study would take between six months and a year to complete, and Edleston believes it will confirm the advantages of the transition.

“We think it’s the right thing to do,” Edleston said. “We just want an outside expert to verify that.”

But there would be challenges.

“If we transformed from a technical college into a community college, we would lose, at this point, $1.65 million from the state of Kansas, which supports us with about 65 percent of our operating costs,” Edleston said.

The loss in funding would necessitate an ad valorem tax, which Edleston estimates would result in a 3- to 4-mill levy.

Commissioner Karen McCulloh said she has been very impressed with what the college has done, but said she couldn’t support a 3- to 4-mill levy, especially with the uncertainty at the state level.

“We at the county level are pretty much being asked to run the world,” McCulloh said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with the present budget that’s before the governor.”

McCulloh said she was getting tired of the state asking Kansas municipalities to figure everything out and “make things work.”

“I’d be delighted to say, ‘Go for it,’ but 3 or 4 mills?” McCulloh said. “We just don’t have any idea of the impact of what’s happening in Topeka.”

She said the state needs to “step up and figure out how they’re going to fund education.”

Edleston also asked commissioners about a building commission request. He said the college’s current facilities have become overcrowded, and the college would like a new building for administrators. The plan would envision the county fronting the costs to be repaid by the college gradually on an annual basis.

McCulloh said commissioners would consider it but made no promises.

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