Clark State Community College has received more money from the state each of the last seven years as the Ohio government switched to merit-based school funding.
State funding for the local community college in 2019 will be $14.6 million, according to data from the school. That’s more than $4.5 million the school got in 2013, according to the same data.
“We want to make sure we’re maximizing the support for our students,” Clark State President Jo Alice Blondin said. “So as we continue to perform better in course completion and graduation, our state share of instruction went up.”
Along with the increases, the school also won approval for its first bachelor degree program in school history and is getting ready to ask the Ohio Department of Higher Education for a second bachelor’s degree program, this time in addiction studies.
Also, the school has made strides by updating its campus, partnering with area businesses and is providing more opportunities for their own students and area high school students than it has in the past.
Maxwel Beedy, a Clark-Shawnee high school student, was working in a cybersecurity lab at Clark State this week and said Clark State is playing an important role in helping him get a jump on a career.
“This gives me hands-on opportunities in business and contracting,” he said. “It also gives me a college feel.”
Clark State serves more than 6,000 students, many who live in Clark and Champaign counties, and the school has an economic impact of $161 million for Champaign, Clark, Logan and Greene counties, according to school data.
The college directly supports about 1,500 jobs in the area and indirectly supports about another 425 full-time jobs, according to the data.
The average age of a student at Clark State is about 27 years old, Blondin said. The school was awarded the 2018 American Association of Community Colleges CEO/Board Relationship Award of Excellence, a prestigious award given to schools who completed exponential work among the country’s two year colleges.
Ohio community colleges no longer get money from the state for simply getting students to enroll in their school, Blondin said. Instead, the state disperses money based on how students achieve once enrolled.
And when the state made the switch in 2013, the first year Blondin took charge at Clark State, a change was needed at the school, she said.
“We had to reposition the college from one totally focused on enrollment and getting people in the door and getting them in the seats to making sure they stay in the seats and graduate,” Blondin said. “That really hasn’t been the focus of not just community colleges. Frankly, for most colleges and universities. They were focused more on inputs rather than outputs.”
Ohio awards community colleges money based on three success factors. Fifty percent is based on course completion, 25 percent is based on graduation and the rest is based on a number of ‘success points’ students achieve while at the school.
The annual course completion during the 2017-2018 school year was 79 percent, according to school data. That’s a 6 percent jump from five years ago, according to the data, which Blondin says is significant.
She credits that to the school’s focus on student success and making current students a priority.
In 2013, the school employed three academic advisors. They now have nine academic advisors whose job is to make sure students have everything they need to be successful.
“We call them success coaches and they ask questions that my academic advisor never asked me,” Blondin said. “My academic advisor never asked me ‘Did you have any trouble getting to class today? Are you hungry? Are there any additional services you need to make yourself successful?”
Clark State had to conduct two graduation ceremonies this year because of the increasing number of students graduating. In the 2013-2014 school year, 436 students left the school with an associates degree. This summer, 581 students left with degrees.
Giving students this type of support has resulted in a higher success rate, Blondin said. The school is outperforming other schools right now, Blondin said, so it is unclear if the school will continue to see an increase in state funding, but the school will continue to make sure students have what they need to be successful.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we will continue to see increases,” she said. “I am not sure if we will see the increase at the level that we have just because we have outperformed our peers. We have had the second largest percentage increase in state funding over the last three years.”
Along with making sure students have what they need to be successful, the school is also expanding opportunities and is set to ask for another bachelor’s degree program.
Clark State got the OK from the Ohio Department of Higher Education to develop a four-year degree program in Manufacturing Technology Management this month. The school is getting ready to submit an application for a bachelor’s degree in addiction studies, Blondin said.
“We need to be selective and workforce focused,” Blondin said. “We want to focus on areas of our strength. Our social work and addiction studies are extremely strong with excellent faculty.”
There is a need in the community for more addiction professionals and the jobs are in demand, she said. Clark State won’t have an English bachelor’s degree anytime soon, Blondin said, because other schools offer those opportunities. Clark State wants to expand in areas that don’t have a lot of options.
“Will Clark State have 50 bachelor degree programs in two years? No,” Blondin said. “Clark State will have very targeted programs.”
College Credit Plus
Clark State has saved area students more than $10 million in college costs by teaming up with local high schools to offer College Credit Plus classes.
College Credit Plus classes are free for students and are essentially a college class taught in high school. They give students an opportunity to earn college credit in high school.
“It really is an important part of what we do, but we also remind ourselves that we serve our traditional population,” Blondin said.
This year, a number of Clark County students graduated high school not only with a high school diploma, but also with many college credit hours thanks to the program, Blondin said. One Clark Shawnee student even graduated with an associate’s degree from Clark State, she said.
Clark-Shawnee Assistant Superintendent Brian Kuhn said the district’s partnership with Clark State is important.
“Clark State has provided us with College Credit Plus data for our district covering the last three years,” he said. “Since August of 2016, 550 Clark-Shawnee students have participated in the program and have earned 6663 semester hours in credit. Based on tuition costs, this has saved our families almost $300,000 in tuition. This is a significant benefit to students and their families.”
Blondin said she hopes to see more local districts expand their programs.
The local community college has a number of business partners it has teamed up with over the past few years to give students and employees career and educational opportunities.
It has also teamed to help the community as a whole.
The south-side of the city does not have many medical options, and the school has teamed up with Mercy Health to change that. The school is set to open a clinic soon at the school for students, area employers and the community.
The clinic will also be in line with Mercy’s mission, said Matt Caldwell, CEO of Mercy Health-Springfield in a statement.
“A key part of our mission is to provide care to the under-served,” Caldwell said. “The location of this clinic ensures that students, faculty, staff and residents of the south side of Springfield will have access to important primary care services where previously there were none.”
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