Carey: College issue needs more studying

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 20, 2004

Not quite looking for Sherlock Holmes, Ohio Sen. John Carey Jr. does want to call in the education detectives.

Earlier this week, the Wellston Republican representing the 17th District sent letters to the Ohio Board of Regents’ chancellor and leaders of higher education institutions in southern Ohio requesting an objective study be performed on Collins Career Center’s request to become a community college - something that could provide more associate degree opportunities within the county.

"Rather than spin our wheels, we need a game plan to move from where we are at to how we can serve the educational needs of Lawrence County in the future," Carey said Friday. "My stance is that I want to do what is best to serve these educational needs for all the people of Lawrence County."

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Carey has many questions including: What would it cost and what would be involved in the process? How can the existing institutions work together more closely to better serve the needs within the county? What are these needs? How will these other institutions be affected?

The Senator commended Rep. Clyde Evans for introducing the bill in the Ohio House that would allow for the Getaway-based vocational school to change designations but said the issue needs to be thoroughly analyzed from all sides by an impartial observer.

In his letter, he recommended the board of regents hire former chancellor and former Lawrence County resident Elaine Hairston to investigate the issue and present a formal report about the county’s higher education situation. As another solution, the board could hire an independent consultant.

Dr. Dan Evans, dean of Ohio University Southern, recently took a similar stance that the issue merits much further investigation, adding that he does have serious concerns regarding the move that he believes could duplicate programs, block growth for the Ohio University Southern and threaten the institution’s future.

Evans also touted the need for an objective study. He also had questions about specific degrees, student interest and employer demand.

"From the OUS perspective, these questions should be addressed and a much more serious dialogue needs to occur before creating a new college in Lawrence County," he said in a written statement. "Given the long-reaching impact and significant future implications for such a decision, reason dictates that there should not be a rush to identify a solution when it’s not clear there is a problem."

So far, the board of regents’ stance is that the career center should partner with Rio Grande Community and Technical College instead of being granted community college status – something Collins Career Center Superintendent Steve Dodgion disagrees with.

"We don’t need facilities, we’ve got four locations. We just think the board of regents is trying to protect the status quo," Dodgion said recently.

"It’s evident this is what the county wants. We have gotten support from all of the county boards of education and from business and industry."

The Lawrence County Commission sent a letter to the board of regents last week asking that the governing body rethink its position.