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Clark State plans $5.8M project to boost students

Plan includes one-stop Student Success Center to improve graduation rates.

Clark State Community College hopes to break ground this fall on a $5.8 million project that will create a one-stop Student Success Center to help get its students off to a better start and improve the college’s graduation rate.

The State Controlling Board last week released $505,000 so the Toledo-based firm The Collaborative Inc. can finish plans for the project that will:

•Remake the first floor of Rhodes Hall to house the center;

•Build a new bookstore and 135-seat cafeteria in a new structure that will connect Rhodes Hall and the Library Resources Center (LRC); and

•Start to move business courses from the Brinkman Educational Center Downtown into renovated digs in the LRC.

Clark State President Jo Alice Blondin said the project will help better serve Clark State students.

“For so long, higher education has focused on the residential student,” she said.

With roughly two thirds of its students attending part time and juggling other responsibilities, they may need easier access to advising more than traditional students, she said.

As important, 65 five percent of Clark State students also have to take remedial courses before they can begin their college work, something the one-stop student center hopes to address in a shorter time.

“The Student Success Center will join tutoring, disabilities services, advising and student support services in one suite,” according to a document posted on the Controlling Board’s Website.

“The space will include several multipurpose learning labs, a communications lab, quiet study spaces, group study spaces, tutoring areas, as well as a testing lab.”

Blondin said the old cafeteria, which has been in the Rhodes Hall space housing the Student Success Center, has “outlived its usefulness.” She added that the bookstore, already relocated from its too cramped quarters in Rhodes Hall, needs a new home as well.

Referred to by many as the “connector building,” the new structure and book store will connect Rhodes Hall with the Library Resources Center, so students can go from one to the other without going outdoors.

Once the book store is relocated from the LRC, Clark State will begin to bring business classes now taught in the Brinkman Educational Center Downtown to the Leffel Lane Campus so that most of the core educational classes are all in the same location.

A second phase of that project “will consist of additional classrooms, a study room and student soft spaces,” the same document said.

Blondin said the overall goal of the projects is to improve graduation rates, which are now an element in the state’s deciding which colleges get more financial support.

Six percent of Clark State students graduate within three years.

“It’s not just about enrollment (numbers) any more,” Blondin said. Fifty percent of funding is now linked to “completion and student success points,” which measure progress toward finishing studies, she said.

“We want to have wrap-around student services to help them do that.”

The Collaborative Inc., based in Toledo, was chosen from among 26 architectural firms that answered the Controlling Board’s request for proposals. Three were interviewed once the field was narrowed.

The Controlling Board said it chose The Collaborative because of “previous experience working with other colleges/universities on similar projects, a well prepared interview and a highly qualified architect team.”

Ohio Sen. Chris Widener (R-Springfield), himself an architect, is one of six state legislators on the seven-member board, which also has a voting president appointed by the governor.

The company will receive a 6 percent fee on the work based on final construction costs.

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