FSCC administrators reassess truck driving program following rough financial year

Friday, July 27, 2007

Fort Scott Community College administrators are looking at re-evaluating the college's commercial truck driving program after it lost money last year, forcing college officials to close one of its trucking facilities in Kansas, FSCC officials said.

The FSCC truck driving program brought in a little more than $641,000 last year, but college officials spent a little more than $1 million, which created about a $410,000 deficit in the program's budget, according to FSCC financial records. The proposed 2007-08 FSCC budget for the program includes a projected $1.1 million in total revenues; $1.1 million in total available resources, and $1.1 in total expenses, according to the records.

FSCC Administrative Assistant Kathy McCurley said college officials simply spent more on the program last year than it took in. The high cost of gasoline, the installation of a new trucking program director, and other costs associated with re-organizing the program were just some of the factors that contributed to the program's financial woes last year, McCurley said.

Last year, college officials closed their Flint Hills truck driving instruction facility in Emporia, which FSCC designed in conjunction with Flint Hills Technical College, because it was not financially feasible to keep it open, FSCC officials said. Students who were enrolled in instruction at the Flint Hills center were absorbed into the FSCC Truck Driving Program center in Topeka, officials said.

"It didn't generate enough students to justify its existence," FSCC Associate Dean of Occupational Programs Jay Leek said. "The facility wasn't generating enough activity for them (college officials) to be satisfied with that so they're looking for a better opportunity."

FSCC will continue to operate three trucking centers in Fort Scott, Topeka, and Kansas City, the latter of which will soon be moving to an as-yet undetermined location, officials said.

Leek now oversees operations at all of the college's occupational programs, including the trucking program, the Harley-Davidson Technician Training Program in Frontenac, the Dental Hygiene Program, the John Deere Technician Training Program, and the Cosmetology Program.

Trucking program money is used to pay for housing for students enrolled in the program, and physicals and drug screens for those students. FSCC will also receive $54,000 in state money to help fund the program this year, according to documents. Students in the program have to pay tuition, which covers registration fees, lab fees, student center fees, and costs for the required drug screens.

Leek, who has only served in his position for the last few weeks after being hired last month, said he is trying to get the trucking program back on its feet this year after it experienced a rough financial year.

"I'm a little green about this right now. We're trying to get our hands around that," Leek said Thursday. "We're evaluating the program, its instructors and the whole process. It's a fact finding mission for me right now. We have about another week to go."

During the July 23 FSCC Board of Trustees meeting, FSCC President Clayton Tatro said that college officials have moved the Kansas City Truck Driving Program out of its previous facility in the Indian Springs Marketplace located in Wyandotte County. That 700,000-square foot building, which opened in 1971, is located near the intersection of U.S. Interstate 635 and U.S. I-70.

College officials now have to formulate, within 90 days, a plan to vacate that building, and have about a year to move out as they search for a new site for the program, Tatro said. FSCC officials are currently in the process of signing a contract with a realtor to begin looking for a new building site, Leek said.

Wyandotte County officials recently condemned the current Indian Springs facility, and a California organization has informed the owners of that property that they plan to use it for future economic development in Wyandotte County, Leek said.

"Which doesn't mean the building is falling down," he said. "It's just a better opportunity for the ground than the previous owner (had). We've been asked to move our operations elsewhere."

The building's previous tenants have a year to find another location for their operations. The largest tenant of the building is the school district in Kansas City, Kan., Leek said. The FSCC trucking program only takes up about one third of the facility's space, he said. Instructors and students used a large parking lot at the center as a backing range, and part of the center to conduct class study and instruction.

Leek said he did not anticipate the move from the Kansas City facility to have an adverse affect on the college's trucking program budget, nor did he think the program is in jeopardy.

"It shouldn't be an issue at all -- we're staying in Wyandotte County," he said. "There's no doubt it (trucking program) will continue to be a viable part of the community."

At the July meeting, in response to one trustee's concern about the trucking program's financial status next year, Tatro said the college's goal for the program is clear.

"We have to do better in the trucking program," Tatro said.

For more information about the FSCC Truck Driving Program, visit the college's Web site at www.fortscott.edu.