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Study offers answers, raises few questions

Some facts are difficult to dispute or spin. Lawrence County has several deficiencies when it comes to higher education.

Most people would not argue this point and a recent study commissioned by the Ohio Board of Regents, the state body that oversees all aspects of higher education, only strengthens this claim. The study began when officials at Collins Career Center wanted the institution to become a community college.

The problem remains clear: Lawrence County residents are falling behind the rest of the Tri-State and rest of Ohio when it comes to higher education achievement. The solution, however, is not so clear.

The recent study says the answer lies in building partnerships and alliances of education institutions, economic development leaders and business groups. The overall emphasis of the study is that the county must work to improve what it has before looking to create a whole new entity.

We certainly wouldn't argue against this approach, though the study is somewhat lacking in tangible ways to accomplish this, especially considering the area includes three states and no less than eight institutions nearby.

The consultants preparing the study made several suggestions that include identifying education and training needs, publicizing the opportunities available, building on reciprocal tuition agreements, developing more secondary and higher education pathways and working closely on transfer agreements.

All these are noble goals but beg the question: Weren't we already doing this? If not, then why not? This doesn't appear to be breaking any new ground because it doesn't spell out exactly how these things should be done.

I guess that is where the education alliance comes into play but we worry that such a broad, open-ended task may be difficult to accomplish unless clear objectives and goals are identified.

On the other hand, Collins Career Center officials still believe the best option is to allow the institution to become a community college. The consultants advised against that at this time.

Unfortunately, the study looked more at whether or not there is a need. While those results do not support a community college, the study did little to look at what the effects would be if a new one was created.

While all of this may seem like a wasted effort, it is not. Any dialogue about education in Lawrence County can only end with positive results for the residents.

Spin that any way you would like, talking about education is the first step. Taking action will have to come next.