Local employers need a skilled workforce, and those skills need to be acquired without students taking on massive college debt, according to a roundtable discussion on college affordability hosted by the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce.
The discussion included Lorain County Community College President Dr. Marcia Ballinger; The Ohio State University President Dr. Michael Drake; Ohio State Senator Gayle Manning (District 13); Ohio State Representative Dan Ramos (District 56); and Elyria City Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Jama. More than 140 chamber members and guests attended the event held August 2 in the Spitzer Conference Center Reaser Grand Room at LCCC. Attendees also included students from LCCC and The Ohio State University.
LCCC works with local employers for specific training programs and overall the college puts a great emphasis on keeping student debt low, Ballinger said.
“The commitment to affordability and access is a core tenant of LCCC,” Ballinger said. “When LCCC was created in 1963, it was established very purposefully to add the access to affordable high education for Lorain County residents.”
The connection between education and a strong workforce is strong, Ramos said.
“Affordable education is probably the most vital thing to a healthy business economy,” he said, adding that it’s important for students to follow through to graduation. “The most expensive education is when a student quits before they graduate,” Ramos said.
Drake agreed on the importance of lowering the amount of debt students take on, while also focusing on the quality of education.
“When we say affordability, access and excellence, we mean all three, all the time,” Drake said. “We don’t mean one over the other or one at the expense of the other.”
LCCC has been in the national spotlight for top rankings in affordability and return on investment, Ballinger said. LCCC students pay the lowest net price of any community college in Ohio, according a recent Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) survey. Not only do LCCC students pay less for their education, but they make more money in their careers, according to studies from the Brookings Institute and Payscale.com.
When it comes to paying less for college, the key is planning ahead, the panel agreed. Starting savings accounts as early as possible is best, Manning said. Once students are in middle school and high school, they can really begin to plan their future and put those plans in action, Jama said.
With the College Credit Plus program, high school students can earn college credit for free before they graduate. In 2017, 35 percent of all Lorain County high school graduates earned college credit from LCCC prior to graduation. Nearly 4,000 high school students have earned CCP credit through LCCC. That adds up to a $9 million savings in tuition for local families.
Other options to help reduce the cost for students include short-term training programs, veterans benefits and clear pathways that get students to their degree faster, Ballinger said. The college has partnerships with many local companies who offer students paid internships, which provide benefits for both students and employers.