Study may expand Northeast Ohio’s educational opportunities

Jackie Valley

Kent State and Lakeland Community College will conduct a study in the coming months to determine if three Northeast Ohio counties’ educational needs are being met.

If the study shows room for expansion, President Lester Lefton said the two institutions will collaborate to provide more educational opportunities in the three counties in question: Lake, Ashtabula and Geauga.

“If people need more community college degrees in Ashtabula or Geauga, Lakeland Community College may offer courses on Kent (regional) campuses,” he said.

Likewise, Lefton said the opposite is true: Kent State may offer courses toward baccalaureate degrees at Lakeland Community College if a need exists.

Even so, Lefton said the first step is conducting the study.

“A possibility is that people’s educational needs are being met,” he said. “That may be the result. And, if not, we want to expand the programs.”

President Morris Beverage of Lakeland Community College said the two institutions are currently organizing the study with requests for proposals to identify areas of focus and how to gather the data.

Lefton said he expects the study to conclude after six months, with a planning period to follow depending on the study’s results.

Beverage said the partnership began as a response to Chancellor Eric Fingerhut’s mission to create stronger institutions in structure capable of effectively improving higher education access in the state.

“In today’s environment, there is no real age limit in terms of need and required access to higher education,” he said. “The need for learning and advanced knowledge is now so constant that what we’re looking at is not the traditional student coming out of the high school.”

Whatever the outcome of the study, Lefton and Beverage both stressed the fact that no campuses or programs would be closed or discontinued. Instead, the goal is to focus on being effective with existing facilities to better serve the region academically.

“President Beverage and I solemnly agree we’re not closing anything or taking down the flag,” Lefton said. “This is about expansion opportunities.”

Lakeland Community College, located in Kirtland, had a total enrollment of 8,780 students in the fall. Kent State Ashtabula and Geauga’s total fall enrollments were 1,575 and 1,265 students, respectively.

The needs assessment does not, however, mark the first time the two institutions have collaborated.

“The relationship between Lakeland and Kent State has been around for a long time,” Beverage said.

For example, a dual admission agreement between Lakeland Community College and Kent State exists to complete an associate degree of applied science in Fire Science between the two campuses.

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].