Press "Enter" to skip to content

Kansas community college runs short on cash

Fort Scott Community College serves Crawford County Kansas. Its fall 2023 enrollment was slightly less than 1,500 students. In early 2023, the FSCC president announced that she was retiring, and by July 2023, the school had a new president. On the surface, FSCC is like any other rural community college, and its motto is “Students first, community always!”

That is, until FSCC hastily instituted a hiring and spending freeze. When asked about it, FSCC’s new president, Dr. Jason Kegler said:

“A lot of people have asked, well, how did you get here? That’s not our focus. Our focus is [not] on how we got here. Our focus is how do we move past this and move past this by building up our cash reserves, by examining our spending.”

The more alarming element of this – what Kegler did not say – is that the school’s financial crisis is so significant that FSCC may not be able to make it through the current academic year. And neither the president nor the Board of Trustees want to talk about that. So much for “community always.”

For whatever reason, elected officials and administrators on the public payroll never seem to remember that the taxpayers have an inalienable right to know how public institutions spend tax dollars. They have an obligation to explain the financial state of the institution and conduct the business of the institution in full view of the taxpayers.

So, the focus of FSCC (and every other community college) ought to be on how the institution got to wherever it is and where it plans to go next within its taxpayer-funded mission. No matter what circumstances the institution finds itself in.

Community college trustees should always be transparent

Based on Kegler’s statement(s), FSCC has insufficient cash reserves to operate the way it planned to at the beginning of its new budget year. At this point, the students have a right to know whether they will be able to continue their studies this semester. The faculty and staff have a right to know whether they will remain employed until the end of the fiscal year. The taxpayers have a right to know how FSCC has used the funding they’ve provided. And FSCC should develop a clear understanding of why it is in the position it is in.

Taking time to understand why the school’s finances are in disarray does not prevent it from simultaneously practicing close financial management. Realistically, the institution cannot “get past” this crisis and build its financial reserves without knowing how it came to be in its current circumstances.

Likely, the school already knows how it got to where it is but isn’t comfortable with making that information public.

“Nothing to see here!” is nothing short of a breach of public trust. The trustees of a public institution owe a duty of care to the taxpayers that supersedes any fealty they may feel to the administration or any other actor. The community should never be a second thought to the Trustees, and they should always be honest, transparent, and forthright with the taxpayers, regardless of the circumstances.

Photo Credit: Kansas Tourism , via Flickr