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Recent study shows county losing ground

Living in the Tri-State can be both a blessing and a curse. Residents are blessed to have a wide variety of resources at their disposal. On the other side of the coin, Lawrence County residents are left competing with two other states for available jobs.

And as a recent study by Yankee Consulting Inc. and validated by a former Ohio Department of Education official helped illustrate, Lawrence County is losing the race.

The issue surfaced last year when Collins Career Center, the county's vocational and technical school, decided to seek the designation of a community college in an effort to improve the college accessibility. Collins Career Center paid for a study to analyze the area's needs.

Now that those results are in, the problem may be far worse than we had ever dreamed. We knew that the county was falling behind the rest of the state in terms of college attainment level. Of the 88 counties in Ohio, Lawrence ranks 84th in levels of associate's degree attainment and the 69th in bachelor's degree attainment.

Troubling statistics, for certain, but that may not even be the worst news.

The study also concluded that county residents have a much lower attainment percentage than their neighbors in Boyd County, Ky., and Cabell County, W.Va.

For associate's degrees Boyd shows 6.3-percent attainment, Cabell 4.9 percent and Lawrence at 4.5 percent. For bachelor's degree's, Boyd is at 8.1 percent, Cabell at 12.1 percent and Lawrence at 6.4.

These numbers are even more alarming since so many Lawrence County residents must go out of state to find jobs. It appears that we may be losing jobs to our better-educated neighbors.

We must do all we can to level the playing field. Should Collins Career Center become a community college? We are not sure yet, but something needs to be done to resolve our growing education gap. Saying our area's poor higher educational attainment is merely a regional issue no longer holds water. Just look at our neighbors.

At the very least, this study has shown us a problem exists. We look forward to hearing what the Ohio Board of Regents and Ohio University Southern leaders think about the issue - and, more important, how we can resolve it.

We must do all we can to make sure that growing up in the Tri-State remains a blessing now and for future generations.