Kansas Promise Plan in the works for introduction to House

SCCC President Trzaska, peers give feedback on new bill

Seward County Community College President Dr. Ken Trzaska takes a certain amount of heat for the mileage he’s logged during his five-year tenure. The travel can be seen as an investment; one return may come in the form of a new program proposal unveiled in the Kansas Legislature Jan. 25.

The Kansas Promise Plan, modeled after initiatives in Tennessee and Oklahoma, would offer significant aid to Kansas high school graduates for in-state, two-year colleges. It would include the stipulation that the recipients stay in Kansas two years after college graduation.

The SCCC president was invited to discuss the preliminary plan and provide feedback. He was joined by, among others, Kansas Association of Community College Trustees executive director Heather Morgan, fellow community college presidents Brian Inbody of Neosho Community College, and Rep. Blaine Finch, speaker pro team in the Kansas House. Finch aims to introduce the Kansas Promise plan during the upcoming 2020 legislative session, and shepherd the proposal through the political process.

Trzaska said he’s honored and pleased to contribute, particularly because he views advocacy at the capitol as one of his administrative responsibilities.

“Increasingly, it’s become important for me to make sure our voice is heard in Topeka,” he said. “At Kansas Board of Regents, the state legislature, our state community college organization, there is a need to articulate the western Kansas point of view.”

As president of the Kansas Community Colleges Council of Presidents, Trzaska provided a grassroots, economic development perspective for the Kansas Promise framework.

andre-hunter-AQ908FfdAMw-unsplash“The overarching purpose is to benefit the families and students of Kansas,” Trzaska said, “which is a goal worthy of a name like Kansas Promise.”

“The focus will be for students in high demand fields, which are to be determined,” said Trzaska. Participants in Kansas Promise would have to meet key requirements: Kansas resident/U.S. citizen/eligible non-citizen/students who graduate from an eligible high School, homeschool, or earn a GED/HISET (prior to 19th birthday) an award at an eligible postsecondary institution toward tuition and mandatory fees after all other gift aid has been first applied.

“It’s what is referred to as a ‘last dollar in’ meaning it applies after other forms of aid, including federal financial aid and scholarship awards from other parties and higher learning institutions are received,” Trzaska said. “The structure would be designed to support workforce development, economic growth, and an upward trajectory for the state and its residents.”

As currently envisioned, Kansas Promise would broaden access to two-year institutions, which comprise the starting point for approximately 70 percent of all Kansans who pursue high ed. Because many of those students go on to four-year institutions, Trzaska noted, the initiative would provide long-range benefits to the state universities as well. 

“The overarching purpose is to benefit the families and students of Kansas,” Trzaska said, “which is a goal worthy of a name like Kansas Promise.”

The bill is scheduled to heard by the Commerce Committee at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Capitol.

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