REVIEWED: Debbie Grandberry

Joey Pompignano

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Daily Kent Stater

Very few students take the Debbie Grandberry route to school.

Grandberry, a senior electronic media productions major who plans to get into film directing, catches the PARTA bus from Cleveland to Kent every morning.

Monday through Thursday, she gets on the bus at 7:50 a.m. at West Prospect Avenue and departs at 4 p.m. from the Student Center.

Her overall experience as a Kent State student outweighs the inconvenience of commuting, she said.

“I’ve literally been running behind the bus like, ‘Wait! Wait! Stop! Stop,’” she said laughing about how she’d have to sleep in the library if she ever missed her way back home.

She said her teachers have been “patient and supportive” of her situation. The earliest she could arrive in Kent is 9:20 a.m. So each semester, she explains to her early morning and evening class professors how limited transportation forces her to arrive late and leave early.

“I don’t want them to think I’m absent and don’t really care about coming,” she said. “If they say ‘Well, we don’t want you to miss that much of class,’ then I need to register for something else.”

A hindering factor for potential students other than early pick up time and long commute includes the cost of riding the bus. Each bus ride from Cleveland to Kent costs $5, meaning Grandberry spends more than $600 for round-trip bus fare per semester. She finds living in Cleveland rather than Kent to be less expensive, however.

This deterrent alone might be reason for many place-bound students to end their schooling after earning an associate’s degree. Grandberry though, who transferred 68 credit hours over from Cuyahoga Community College, plans on earning her bachelor’s degree in August.

According to a Plain Dealer article ( published Sept. 17, there have been talks about a possible collaboration with Kent State offering undergraduate courses at Tri-C.

Other colleges and universities have enacted similar partnerships for select majors. Terra Community College merged with seven Ohio universities through a dual enrollment option, on-site bachelor’s degrees and online bachelor’s degrees.

Eleven community colleges and technical colleges offer online bachelor’s degrees through Ohio University.

Dan Evans, executive dean for regional campuses and vice provost of Ohio University, said the school experienced a significant increase in enrollment since the program’s implementation two years ago. He said 27 students registered in 2008, about 250 in 2009, and more than 1,000 in 2010.

Greg Blase, associate director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said he was unsure of the details about a KSU and Tri-C collaboration. He said it’s a lot to ask a Kent State professor who already teaches courses at Kent to drive to Tri-C to teach courses, and if professors taught undergraduate courses at Tri-C, Kent State would have to receive some or all of the revenue.

“In the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, I know we would never put our stamp on somebody saying that you have an electronic media production degree or news degree unless we teach them the bulk of those major courses,” Blase said.

Lastly, he said a large amount of resources must be added in order to teach two more years of course work at Tri-C.

Grandberry said she encourages other place-bound students to stay persistent and not think of commuting to Kent as a dilemma because a higher education will pay off in the long run. She admitted that a four-year degree closer to home sounded appealing though.

“If I, or the future Debbie Grandberrys, can go to Tri-C and get the same education, that’s definitely a plus,” she said. “I wish they offered it now.”

Blase said he understands why the state is pushing partnerships between community colleges and universities. Part of the reason, he said is the “brain drain.” This is when students leave the state after obtaining an education.

By offering place-bound students four-year degrees at a community college, he said there’s a better chance they’ll stay in the state and contribute to the local economy.

“We’ve had trouble,” Blase said, “getting students who do all these courses at Tri-C, take the core classes and then take some of the JMC classes, to come down here because it’s too far.”

But in the meantime, that far-distance commute remains the only route for place-bound students like Debbie Grandberry.