For more than a quarter-century, since he arrived as president of Fort Hays State University in the spring of 1987, Dr. Edward H. Hammond has set aside time each fall to travel across Kansas reporting on the only Board of Regents university in the western half of the state and on higher education in general.
In the current climate of financial uncertainty and questions about accountability in higher education, President Hammond will focus this year on initiatives that have made FHSU a model of innovation.
He will visit with media, legislators, civic leaders and alumni in 17 Kansas communities. He will also make stops in Nebraska at McCook and in Missouri at Kansas City and St. Charles. The tour begins on Monday, Oct. 7, and lasts through Saturday, Oct. 12.
"The Power of One" is the theme for the 2013-2014 academic year at Fort Hays State. "This theme describes all the hard work of individual people at FHSU," the president said. "Collectively, this work makes a difference. It makes effective, lasting changes in our university and for our students, so that they can take their education out into the world and succeed in their own lives and careers."
The Kansas Board of Regents established a goal for the state's colleges and universities to achieve 60 percent of adults with a certificate, credential, associate degree or bachelor's degree by 2020. "Our enrollment gains show that FHSU is making great strides toward that goal by making higher education accessible to more Kansans," President Hammond said. "It is critical that Regents universities are well-funded so that we can retain the state's most valuable resource -- our promising young people. We know that graduates earn increasingly higher wages with each progressive degree and that workers with higher education credentials have lower unemployment rates and more disposable income."
Thanks to the lowest tuition in the state and a high-tech, high-touch approach that fosters high-quality education, FHSU has been the fastest growing university in Kansas since the turn of the century and one of the fastest growing in the nation. Just last month, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the nation's leading source of news about colleges and universities, reported that FHSU was the third-fastest-growing university in the United States from 2001 to 2011, the latest year for which complete records were available. From an enrollment of 5,626 in fall 2001, FHSU grew to 12,802 in fall 2011, which was an increase of 127.6 percent. The growth continues. The number of students reached 13,441 when the 20th day headcount was announced this fall, which is another all-time record for enrollment at FHSU.
"We are very proud of our institution because we are a different kind of university," the president said. "We're doers. We respond in interesting ways to change in society, technology, the economy, the world. We take our students' hopes and dreams and make them a reality, whether they are on campus, online or in China."
FHSU delivers college courses through three modalities: to students on the Hays campus; to students in the Virtual College; and cross-border, mostly to students at partner universities in China. Of this semester's enrollment, 4,767 students are on the Hays campus, 5,380 are studying online through FHSU's Virtual College, and 3,294 are enrolled in FHSU classes at partner universities in Mainland China.
"Our success is tremendous," President Hammond said. "For example, in the College of Education and Technology, we've got a 98-percent pass rate on the teaching licensure test. That's 98 percent. Out of 266 graduates, 260 passed and were licensed. That's clearly above the state average."
He also noted physical education licensure, where 38 students graduated and every one of them passed the test.
"In our Virtual College, we are preparing students to get licensed wherever they are," he said. "Only one out of 142 Virtual College education students did not pass. It doesn't happen by accident. We have faculty and staff who use their Power of One to make a difference in the lives of their students."
He also cited the College of Business and Entrepreneurship. FHSU was one of only 13 colleges and universities in the United States with two accounting graduates to win the Sells Award in the last three years. The Sells Award goes only to those who pass all four sections of the Certified Public Accountant exam all at once, with a specified high score, and on the first try. Of the nearly 100,000 accountants who take the exam each year, only a few, sometimes even less than 10 or 20, win the award. In the past 25 years, only 13 schools, and that includes schools such as Wharton, Harvard, Stanford and now FHSU, have had two graduates in that group. No other Kansas school in the last 25 years has had even one finish in that elite category.
"In the College of Arts and Sciences, we brag about art all the time, and, looking at the national rankings, our graphic arts program is ranked higher than any other program we have on a national basis," he said. "Year in and year out, our graduates outperform everyone else. This summer I was talking to one of our students who's on an internship in Chicago, and he said, 'Dr. Hammond, I don't know if I'm going to come back for my senior year. They just offered me $75,000 to stay here and work full time.' He's talented, as talented as we have made him, because the faculty in art have used their Power of One to make the difference."
The College of Health and Life Sciences offers another way to compare FHSU nationally. "In our radiology program, we have a 98.2-percent pass rate over the last five years, and in that same period, on three separate occasions we've had a 100-percent pass rate," the president said. "Our graduating students take the same exams taken by students graduating from medical centers and other institutions around the country."
In another area in the College of Health and Life Sciences, medical diagnostic imaging, FHSU students had a 100-percent pass rate. In vascular sonography, there was a 94.5-percent pass rate in the clinical exams, compared to the national average of 61.
"In another department in that college, Speech-Language Pathology has a pass rate of 95 percent and the national average is 86," he said. "These results are the outcome of the hard work of an outstanding faculty."
President Hammond pointed to yet another area where FHSU excels -- affordability.
"As noted recently in The Wall Street Journal and in other places, all the reliable data say there is no correlation at all between how much a student spends and the quality of education," he said. "FHSU is the textbook case example of that reality. We provide a high-quality education, and through the Power of One, whether as a teacher, an administrator or a staff member, each of us reaches out and touches students and changes lives. The beauty of it is we do it every single day."
An education at FHSU is affordable. This semester, a freshman's tuition and fees are about $4,300 for 15 credit hours at FHSU.
"That same student at the business school, say at K.U., would have to spend almost $13,700, and the student would not get the same kind of education," he said. "People are figuring that out, and they are coming to Fort Hays State in increasing numbers. Our freshman class this year is the largest in our history."