Lefton hypes Ohio’s ‘two plus two’ degrees

Justin Metz

Community colleges, Kent branches to be linked in new plan

“Change” was the focus of President Lester Lefton’s discussion on regional campuses Thursday, during his “State of the University” address.

Lefton outlined a plan for regional campuses to offer more baccalaureate programs and increase cooperation with the state’s community colleges.

“We’ve operated our model of regional campuses largely the same way for the last 50 years,” Lefton said. “Doing the same thing in the same way is no longer a viable strategy for success.”

The changes Lefton spoke of echoed Ohio’s 10-year plan for higher education, a strategy Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut released earlier this year.

In his plan, Fingerhut proposed integrating community colleges and regional campuses to offer “two plus two” degrees. Students participating in these programs would earn a two-year associate degree at a community college and then transfer to a regional campus to complete a bachelor’s degree.

To promote the “two plus two” programs, Fingerhut plans on making associate degrees from community colleges fully transferable to any public university within the University System of Ohio.

“We stand accountable for contributing to the state’s goals in meaningful and measurable ways,” Lefton said. “We will, and we must, continue to take charge and chart our own destiny.”

For the “two plus two” degree programs to work successfully, regional campuses must focus on cooperating with community colleges in the surrounding areas.

Ashtabula campus Dean Susan Stocker said her campus is currently working toward making some of the necessary changes.

“We’ve already worked with the Geauga campus and Lakeland Community College to conduct a joint needs assessment,” said Stocker. “The goal was to determine how we might collaborate to better serve students and potential students, as well as employers in the area.”

According to Stocker, students with associate’s degrees from LCC will be encouraged to enroll in one of the campus’s eight bachelor’s programs.

“I think that we’re well positioned to implement this plan and move forward,” said Gregg Andrews, dean of the Tuscarawas campus and interim executive dean for regional campuses.

Andrews cited Kent State Stark, which shares its campus with community college Stark State University, as an example.

“The students at Stark State would be able to stay on the same campus,” said Andrews. “They would earn their associate degree at Stark State and then move directly into a baccalaureate degree at Kent State Stark.”

While the introduction of the “two plus two” degree seems simple enough, Stocker said there are many obstacles that must be overcome.

“The trick will always be funding,” Stocker said. “You can say a lot of things about plans and what you want to accomplish, but unless the funding is there and the resources are there, it’s impossible.”

Despite the apparent obstacles, Stocker seemed optimistic about the changes coming to Kent State’s regional campuses.

“We are really looking at this as an opportunity to be something different than what we have been for almost 50 years,” Stocker said.

Contact regional campuses reporter Justin Metz at [email protected].