Hicks: Future of Frank Phillips is bright

Even in the midst of recent turmoil, the future of Frank Phillips College is still looking bright.Dr. Jud Hicks, president of FPC, was the featured speaker for the Borger Rotary Club meeting Tuesday. He spoke candidly about some of the issues the college has faced in the past, as well as its future plans.He said when the news broke on Jan. 19 about the possibility of FPC’s state funding being cut and the college facing potential closure, it was not a good day on campus.“We got this information late in the afternoon on Jan. 18, and ironically enough, it was the first day of classes for the spring semester,” he said. He said he still isn’t sure what the intent of the government officials was down in Austin when it came to this decision. All he could really gather was that the closure of colleges would save the state money.Dr. Hicks said when such an event happens, people can respond to adversity in several different ways, which include being permanently dispirited, striving to get their lives back to normal, or using the experience as a defining event and growing from it. He said the college has tried to look at this whole situation from the third point of view.He said he doesn’t think the college will ever completely lose the stigma of what happened earlier this year, at least down in the Austin area. He also said he wonders if the people down in Austin really do care about what takes place in the Texas Panhandle.According to a study Dr. Hicks received last week, he said that 81 percent of the Texas population is concentrated in four regions, and the Texas Panhandle is not one of them. He said the same four regions will result in 95 percent of the student population growth, and the Texas Panhandle is not included in this percentage either.Despite these facts, he said Frank Phillips College has a service area comprised of nine counties covering the top of the Texas Panhandle that covers over 9,000 square miles. In that service area, he said there are over 62,000 people as of the last census, larger than four different states.Dr. Hicks said the college is trying not to focus so much on what is going on in Austin, but what it can do to grow and become better. He said the college is trying to take advantage of the things that it can.“We can be innovators. We can do things a little different,” he said. “It really comes down to the statement, ‘Because we have to...it’s really that simple.’”He said when the speculation began about the future of the college, it was decided it was time to get re-focused. He said the college has maintained its sense of urgency since then, taking such actions as hiring a new workforce dean that will start work in June 1 and continue its industry training growth. The college also decided to get, as Dr. Hicks put it, passionate about being passionate.“I know that corporations or organizations spend a lot of time on motivating employees,” he said. “I would just offer this to you: When you have passionate individuals that work for you, you don’t spend a lot of time motivating, because they’re already there. I think that’s what we have at Frank Phillips College. We have a lot of passionate people about what they do and the lives they’re going to change.”Another key to moving forward, Dr. Hicks said, is looking at what everyone else is doing, and then doing the exact opposite.“The simple fact is, when you’re the smallest and most rural, you really aren’t on the radar with everyone else,” he said. “There are community colleges in Texas that are larger than some of the major universities, 40,000-50,000 students, multiple campuses. Their budgets are larger than some of the universities. You really do, from top to bottom, find out what everyone else does, and do the opposite.”A difference between FPC and other campuses is that it does not have an on-campus bookstore. Dr. Hicks said the truth was that FPC simply wasn’t making enough money to justify having a bookstore, which is not the case with most campuses. He said students were paying the same prices and perhaps even more than other students across the state.FPC students go online to purchase their books, which Dr. Hicks said helps save them around 30 to 35 percent and even upwards of 60 to 65 percent.The college is also striving toward quality education in the classroom and offers dual-credit classes for those who need them. Dr. Hicks said he taught an economics class with 28 students this semester. Other new offerings include a food safety program, a collegiate FFA program, and a beef cattle program.“Those are some things that we think enhance the student population,” he said.He said the college is trying to do some things a little different, which Dr. Hicks said can actually be an advantage for FPC since it is a small and rural school.“The plain and simple truth of it is, we are in the business of changing people’s lives,” he said.He said members of the FPC board went up to the Perryton campus to kick off what the college hopes will be a successful scholarship program to try and raise endowed funds for all the students of Ochiltree County with the intent of giving all Ochiltree county high school graduates the opportunity to attend the FPC Allen Campus with tuitions and fees paid.