By Harold Gwin
YSU will be a partner in the process but won’t be the organizing force behind it.
YOUNGSTOWN — The Mahoning Valley should have its own community college within three years.
That’s the timetable established by Eric Fingerhut, Ohio’s Chancellor of Higher Education, in a 10-year comprehensive plan for the delivery of public higher education in Ohio unveiled Monday.
A local community college is only a small part of the state plan, but Fingerhut said it should be in operation for the 2010-11 school year.
“We see this as multiple campuses,” Fingerhut told The Vindicator, explaining that Youngstown State University, the Trumbull and Columbiana County campuses of Kent State University, Jefferson Community College based in Steubenville and the technical and career centers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties could all wind up as classroom sites.
YSU took the lead on the local community college issue two years ago when its board of trustees directed the university administration to begin looking at the process and to develop an implementation plan.
However, it now appears that the Ohio Board of Regents, which oversees public higher education in the state, will be in the driver’s seat.
Fingerhut said the board of regents has received a grant from the Raymond John Wean Foundation in Warren to hire state and national experts to help devise a local community college plan for the Mahoning Valley.
It will be accomplished in collaboration with YSU, Kent, Jefferson Community College and the adult work force centers, according to the 10-year plan.
The implementation time line is realistic, Fingerhut said, pointing out that the community college isn’t being built from scratch but will rely on existing expertise at the participating educational institution to get the program moving quickly.
The 10-year plan also calls on YSU to launch a more concerted effort in the area of research and development targeted regional economic development initiatives.
The university ranks last among Ohio’s state institutions of higher learning in total R D expenditures, according to the report, which showed Youngstown with just over $1.3 million in that category. By comparison, Kent is at $11 million, the University of Akron is at $28.4 million, and Ohio State is at $652 million.
YSU has done what it can in terms of research and development involving local companies, but the state has limited its capacity to implement undergraduate and graduate programs in that area, Fingerhut said.
With the development of a local community college relieving some of the pressure YSU has been under to provide remedial courses for incoming students, the university will be freed to pursue a more focused mission in the field of economic research and development, the chancellor said.
That can change the face of a city like Youngstown, he said, noting that the University of Akron has done a similar thing for the Akron community.
The state will authorize and support undergraduate and graduate programs that focus on quality and have relevance to economic rebirth, he said.
YSU’s newly formed Center for Transportation and Materials Engineering recently put out a call for regional research proposals, and the university’s new College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics held a recent conference for area businesses, encouraging them to look for ways the university can help them.
YSU President Dr. David C. Sweet was unavailable to comment on the chancellor’s plan but has indicated in the past that the university is working with the board of regents in the development of a community college. Sweet has also said that YSU is also a willing participant in other areas of the 10-year plan.