ELYRIA — Looking to the next five years of business and workforce growth and technology in Lorain County, Lorain County Community College aims to award another 10,000 bachelor’s and associate degrees and certificates by 2025.
That’s the basis of the college’s strategic plan announced Thursday and approved by the college’s Board of Trustees.
Highlighting “what our strategic plan and vision is all about” and calling the goal “big” and “bold,” LCCC President Marcia Ballinger on Thursday gave a presentation on the plan to the trustees, guests, students, faculty and staff during a meeting at the college’s Norton Culinary Arts Center.
She said the plan will focus on five areas: students, success, future, work and community.
More than 1,700 people took part in 80 feedback and planning sessions over nine months starting last fall “to determine the best path forward for the college and the community,” according to LCCC. They included business leaders, private citizens and law enforcement officials “working toward a common goal,” Ballinger said.
Feedback from the “listening and learning sessions” was incorporated into LCCC’s strategic plan. The process then involved creating a “Vision Network” of 130 community and campus leaders who attended four meetings earlier this year to review the feedback from the previous seven months of planning sessions along with certain “mega-trends” expected to impact the future of higher education.
Benjamin Fligner, chairman of the LCCC Board of Trustees, on Thursday called the process of developing the strategic plan “a fantastic, great experience.”
In remarks prepared by the college, Ballinger said the current and future economy is a talent-driven one. The expectation is that 65 percent of all jobs by the year 2025 will require education beyond high school, with the ability to train a skilled workforce “critical for individuals and for companies in our community,” she said.
“Higher education and training provide individuals with greater opportunities to access and succeed in jobs with higher wages,” Ballinger said. “Additionally, employers are clamoring for skilled talent to grow their businesses. This plan addresses both of these in a big way.”
Right now, 80,000 working adults ages 25 to 64 in Lorain County have only a high school diploma or some college experience without credentials and two-thirds lack the training or credentials necessary for the workforce, according to Ballinger and LCCC.
With information technology, biomedical sciences and advanced manufacturing on the rise, the college set a goal to develop new short-term and degree programs to help working-age adults succeed in an economy in which an estimated 85 percent of the jobs that will exist by 2030 have yet to be created.
LCCC also intends to help reduce college debt by offering more high school students the chance to earn early college credits. In 2018, 43 percent of all high school students earned college credit prior to their high school graduation, according to LCCC. That saved families $5.5 million in college costs through guaranteed credit transfer to LCCC and other Ohio colleges and universities, according to LCCC.
Other benefits of the strategic plan could be to increase household incomes, make Lorain County a “talent destination” for highly trained, well-paid workers and entrepreneurs who can prime the economy and grow the county, Ballinger said.
“Ten thousand degrees is an ambitious goal, and I believe we can help our residents achieve these degrees and credentials by providing the support needed to address common barriers people face when pursuing higher education,” Fligner said in a prepared statement released by LCCC.
The LCCC board also took steps to improve the surrounding campus — LCCC is Ohio’s oldest community college — by approving updates to its physical plant in votes taken Thursday. A contract for an “energy conservation and performance management program” was awarded by the board to The Brewer Garrett Co. of Middleburg Heights to create a list and begin negotiations on creating a campuswide program of designing, building, installing managing and maintaining energy-related improvements and equipment upgrades to reduce utility bills and operating costs.
Ballinger said that as the oldest community college campus in Ohio, with some buildings and equipment dating back to the late 1950s and 1960s, LCCC must find ways “to continue to advance with technology as part of the visionary process.”
“We’ll be creating savings over time, bringing the physical plant up to date,” Ballinger said. “Some of the equipment is 60 years old with no parts available.”
A $471,000 contract also was granted by the board to Williams Brothers Builders Inc. to update and retrofit science labs and classrooms serving LCCC’s first applied bachelor’s degree in micro-electromechanical systems. The upgrades will help LCCC add to the curriculum for the program’s third and fourth years, Ballinger said.
“We’re excited to have this work commence,” she said.