Lyon County will invest $350,000 into scholarships for Emporia State University students — provided that the city of Emporia does so as well.
The county commission approved the university’s request 3-0 Thursday morning after hearing about it during a study session on Wednesday. The funds will come from the sales tax account.
The ESU Foundation has already pledged $350,000 while the Emporia City Commission discussed the request during its Wednesday morning study session. The city did not come to a consensus on the issue and agreed to discuss it further.
The scholarship fund will be used to draw prospective students to ESU as fewer students enroll in college and higher education recruitment becomes more competitive across the country. The university will establish scholarships based on GPA only (instead of GPA and ACT test scores), scholarships for transfer students and scholarships for students interested in ESU’s high-demand degree programs.
“This will be aimed at bringing students to the campus, not necessarily living on the campus, but living in the community or in the area, so they’re consumers in this county and the city,” said Diana Kuhlmann, ESU Vice President of Administration and Finance.
County counselor Marc Goodman pointed out that investing dollars into scholarship opportunities would bring additional students to the community to spend money, which would then be a return on that investment.
Kuhlmann agreed, saying that the goal of the GPA-only scholarship was to bring in 100 additional students each and that the average student would spend about $4,800 annually in the community.
“You’ve got a $480,000 return per year on those students for living expenses, all the necessities, entertainment, whatever they purchase as consumers here,” she said.
Commission Chairman Rollie Martin asked Kuhlmann if these funds would be used exclusively for scholarships or if they would cover operational expenses at ESU as well.
“They would be specifically earmarked for students who meet the criteria,” she said.
Commissioner Scott Briggs expressed frustration that budget cuts to education at the state level had led to this point but added that he thought that making the investment was the right thing for the county to do now.
“It’s almost like, okay, we realize (the state is) not going to restore funding soon, especially not in this environment we’re in right now,” he said. “If this helps get … turned around, if this could be the spark to set the foundation to start moving forward again, then I think this is a wise decision.”
Martin said he was in favor of making the investment because he thinks it’s important to empower young people.
“I’ve always been a believer in the youth,” he said. “That’s our future. And if I have to stand on anything, I’ll stand on our youth being our next leaders, being around here in Emporia and Lyon County to take on the good jobs to do the work that we need to continue on.”
Commissioner Doug Peck said he hoped to see the projected return on the county’s investment.
In other business, the commission amended a resolution increasing fines for dogs-at-large and nuisance dogs to reflect inflation.
Last Thursday, the commission first discussed amending the May 1987 resolution addressing dog ownership and care after a group of local cyclists presented a proposal to raise the associated fines.
Sherry Ferguson said that she and others wanted to see the fines adjusted to reflect inflation and that the current fine amounts were not enough to motivate dog owners to keep their pets from bothering cyclists and pedestrians passing by.
“I ride a bicycle a lot and I personally have had several bad encounters with dogs,” Ferguson said. “I’ve called the sheriff and they’ve responded, but when I go to see what has happened, the people didn’t receive a citation or anything.”
After realizing that this had happened to others, she and a group began working with Sheriff Jeff Cope to address the issue and figure out the best means of reporting incidents so as to cut down on “repeat offenders.”
“I think we’re making progress,” she said. “Several of us — a group larger than this — talked to him and I thought we made some progress. This was the first step we wanted to do. If we get these fines increased, then we will go back and talk to Sheriff Cope and have some more discussions.”
Ferguson said that aggressive dogs are an issue, but even dogs that are not aggressive but just in the way can be a safety concern, especially for cyclists.
Allysa Hallett said that cycling is an important aspect of the community, but that at-large dogs can have a negative impact on that cycling-positive culture.
“It is a strong deterrent to local people and visitors who might be using this area for tourism to go out onto the gravel roads and use them for cycling but also walking and running, any sort of outdoor physical activity that happens on the roads,” Hallett said. “People are deterred from going down certain roads or just deterred by the unpredictability of what they might encounter.”
County attorney Marc Goodman said that there are very rarely any citations for dogs and that the current resolution “has no teeth.” He added that the legal department is working on overhauling the resolution.