Gov. Brownback signs bill to join WSU, WATC

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback visited Wichita State Wednesday afternoon to sign a bill into law that will approve the affiliation between Wichita State and Wichita Area Technical School.

The affiliation will transform WATC to the Wichita State Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology. Additionally, it will continue as a technical college with open admissions. Employees of the WATC will become state employees under Wichita State.

“Wichita State is leading the nation in how you integrate a university, community and business structure,” Brownback said. “WSU is one of the great models in the country for how we have that move forward seamlessly and successfully.

“What you’re creating here broadens that pathway to a middle-class life,” he said.

WATC President Sheree Utash said both institutions are preparing change-of-governance documents to send to the Higher Learning Commission that would enable both institutions to be dually accredited. Documents will be sent to the Higher Learning Commission by May 1, Utash said.

If the Higher Learning Commission approves the documents when they visit — likely in November — change would go into effect Jan. 1, 2018, with the Wichita State Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology going into operation in July 2018.

The affiliation is not a complete merger. The two previously proposed a full merger, but elected for a less costly affiliation. WATC’s board of trustees would join as an advisory committee to WSU President John Bardo. Utash would retain a leadership role at Wichita State.