Lorain County Community College received authorization March 20 from the Ohio Department of Higher Education to offer Ohio’s first bachelor of applied science in microelectronic manufacturing, pending approval by the Higher Learning Commission. As one of only three community colleges in the state and the only one in Northeast Ohio, LCCC is well positioned to address the unmet talent needs of industry.
“Thanks to the leadership of this community, Lorain County Community College was the first community college with a permanent campus in Ohio in 1963 and the first community college to offer a comprehensive University Partnership Program; both of which have been game changers for this community,” said LCCC President Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D. “Today is yet another first and another game changer as Lorain County Community College received authorization from the Ohio Department of Higher Education to be among the first institutions to deliver an applied bachelor’s degree to respond to unmet talent needs of regional employers.”
For more than two decades, LCCC has offered access to bachelor’s and master’s degrees on its campus through the University Partnership. The applied bachelor’s degree in microelectronic manufacturing will be an enhancement to LCCC’s University Partnership and is the first bachelor’s degree program offered entirely by LCCC.
According to the Community College Baccalaureate Association, an Affiliated Council of the American Associate of Community Colleges, 20 states already allow community colleges to confer bachelor’s degrees. The passing of House Bill 49 in June 2017 confirmed legislation that would allow Ohio to join these other states and instructed Chancellor Carey to approve programs that met specific requirements, including:
- Evidence of employer engagement and willingness to hire graduates.
- Unmet regional need of industry, current and future to sustain the program.
- Non-duplicative of other programs in offered by four-year colleges and universities in area.
- Willingness of employers to partner and offer work-based learning and employment opportunities to students in the program.
In the letter from Chancellor Carey notifying Lorain County Community College of the approval, Carey states “In the case of Lorain County Community College’s request, the Ohio Department of Higher Education observed exceptionally strong evidence of workforce need in the field of microelectronic manufacturing. Although there are other engineering technology programs in the region, there was no evidence of duplication with regard to microelectronic manufacturing. There was clear evidence of collaboration and agreements with multiple employers, including paid internship program with employer commitments to hire interns and graduates of the programs.”
“We heard the needs of employers and responded. This program is developed with strong input and support of employers,” said Ballinger. “This is all about advanced manufacturing and growing a talent base to help companies not only compete, but grow and thrive especially as new technologies emerge.”
Microelectronic manufacturing is an interdisciplinary field that combines mechanical and electrical engineering technology with science, mathematics and communications. This emerging advanced manufacturing field helps companies make products and processes “smart” by embedding sensors and micro electromechanical systems (MEMS).
In 2014, LCCC answered industry need by launching the state’s first associate degree program in mechatronics technology with a focus in MEMS. The program is one of only 16 in the United States and the only one of its kind in Ohio.
“We have a 100 percent placement rate for our current mechatronics technology associate degree. Now we will be able to offer our students the opportunity to complete a pathway from certificate to bachelor’s degree in this highly specialized and in-demand field,” said Johnny Vanderford, LCCC assistant professor and project manager for Mechatronics Technology program.
Ohio has set a target to have 65 percent of its workforce earn an industry recognized credential or degree by 2025. Institutions of higher education are pursuing new models of instruction – like the applied bachelor’s degree – to reach these goals.
“LCCC is ready to step up and this program hits the mark. Students are excited because they will earn a bachelor’s degree for less than $15,000 while simultaneously completing a paid internship that averages $18,000. Our students will be financially ahead even before they land their first job,” Ballinger said.
In fact, graduates of the associate degree MEMS program are often offered full-time work following the completion of their degree with their internship provider. Through this “Learn and Earn” model, graduates of the associate program are earning average starting salaries of $65,000.
Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy participated in the press event and applauded the College for continually providing residents with training and education that matches the needs of local business and industry. “The College has always been an innovator and today is yet another example of their innovative leadership. Employers need skilled talent. It’s something we hear every day. LCCC does an extraordinary job of meeting those talent needs with programs like this. In fact, employers prefer to hire LCCC graduates because of the quality of LCCC’s educational programs.”
Sherry Washington, who spoke today at a press conference hosted by Lorain County Community College, is personally motivated by her family to pursue an applied bachelor’s degree. The 45-year-old from Lorain enrolled in the MEMS associate degree program in 2017 as she faced her last week of unemployment benefits. Washington had moved to an apartment with her two children and subsequently lost her job. She saw a flier for the MEMS program at the local Ohio Means Jobs center and decided to apply – a decision that she says changed her life. “I could go to school part time and work part time, and in a couple of years, I would have an associate degree. How could I go wrong?” she said.
Washington was quickly hired as an intern at SMART Microsystems, which provides custom assembly services for industry and is housed in the same building as the MEMS program. Washington has since been hired as a part-time engineering technician and is earning enough to provide for her children while she completes her degree. She plans to continue at LCCC and earn her bachelor’s in microelectronics. “This program has changed my life. It has changed my future, and I couldn’t be more grateful to LCCC,” Washington said.
“The authority to deliver applied bachelor’s degrees, especially in fields like this, expands upon our commitment to our community to keep access to higher education affordable and relevant to the job market. This is the return on investment our community expects and deserves,” said Ballinger.
Lorain County Community College will now move forward with seeking approval from the Higher Learning Commission, the accrediting body for public colleges and universities in Ohio.
For more information on how to get involved in this program, please contact Johnny Vanderford at email@example.com, 440-366-4206 or Courtney Tenhover at firstname.lastname@example.org, 440-366-4217.