Career center may start community college

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 9, 2004

Over the years, Collins Career Center has been many things to many people - a retraining station for displaced workers, a start into the workplace for high school students and young adults and a continuing education tool for local employers.

Its list of offerings to the community may soon include something new - a community college.

Collins Career Center Superintendent Steve Dodgion said school officials

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and the area's state lawmakers started work several months ago on legislation to "create a community college within the borders of Lawrence County." The community college would offer associate degrees.

Dodgion said Ohio State Rep. Clyde Evans, R-87th District, introduced the bill just recently in the Ohio House, so it has not yet been assigned to a committee.

The timetable in the language of the bill

specifies a July 2005

target date for the creation of the community college.

"This has tremendous potential for the county, simply because of the contribution to economic development and workforce development," Dodgion said. "The county has about half the number of degreed people as Ohio in general. I think the state average is 21 percent and in Lawrence County its 10 percent."

The community college would be governed by a nine-member board, three of who would be appointed by the governor and the remaining six by the Lawrence County Commission.

Dodgion said this would in no way compete with Ohio University Southern. He said he hopes that the two entities could continue working closely together. He also hopes to create some "Two Plus Two" projects with other four-year schools where Collins students would complete two years of undergraduate courses at that school and complete the last two years of a four-year degree at OUS, Marshall University or other local institutions.

The proposal to create a community college got the blessing Thursday of the Lawrence County Commission.

"I think this is a win-win situation for everyone," Commissioner George Patterson said. "There are people who cannot go to OU or another major college who could further their education at Collins Career Center. It could keep our people here versus sending them to Ashland (Ky.) Community College or West Virginia."

"Maybe we could even bring some of the people from West Virginia and Kentucky over here," Commission President Doug Malone said. "This is another step in the right direction."

Commissioner Jason Stephens said such a community college could be a valuable economic development tool.

"If we expand opportunities in Lawrence County, I think the county will reap the rewards. It may be five, 10, 20 years from now, but the better educated our work force is, the better our future will be," Stephens said.

Dodgion said community colleges are market-driven and would grow based on the needs of the community.