Lorain County Community College received final approval today from the Ohio Department of Higher Education to offer Ohio’s first bachelor of applied science in microelectronic manufacturing. As one of only three community colleges in the state and the only one in Northeast Ohio, LCCC is now better positioned to lead a new era of community college education focused on connecting students to high-paying, in-demand jobs. 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. Today, Ohio joins these states and Lorain County Community College is leading the way.
“As the first community college in Ohio, we are incredibly excited and thankful to Governor John Kasich to now also be the first to offer an applied bachelor’s degree in our region. This is something we have been working toward for nearly two decades,” said LCCC President Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D. Since 1995, 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.
“I am pleased we were able to set the groundwork for this important initiative in the most recent state budget and am thrilled that the Governor’s Office has selected LCCC for this innovative program. Undoubtedly the College will be trailblazers for this degree and will help students be equipped for the workforce of tomorrow with the skills required in Ohio’s rapidly evolving industries,” said Ohio State Senator Gayle Manning (R-13).
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.
Under Gov. Kasich’s leadership, 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.
Craig McAtee, Executive Director for the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers, commended LCCC for their innovation and willingness to think outside the box. “In this world, it is partner or perish – and you have successfully nurtured the necessary partnerships with industry,” McAtee said.
“LCCC is a college that other colleges look to when they are advancing their economic development agendas,” said Amanda Kosty, project manager from the American Association of Community Colleges. “This is a magnificent example of what can happen when education and industry partner to bridge the skills gap.”
“This is an incredible achievement. This bachelor’s degree will facilitate moving students from education into industry. It’s an extremely important part of providing talent that companies need to continue innovating,” said Emily McGrath, deputy director of workforce development at NextFlex.
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.
“More than half of those who are enrolled in MEMS classes are nontraditional students,” Vanderford said. “Some have degrees from other colleges (journalism, fine arts, psychology, and history) but couldn’t find a job in their fields and want something that’s going to make them more be marketable in the job market. Now we can help them get even farther ahead by offering this applied bachelor’s degree.”
Lorain County Commissioner Matt Lundy also applauded the college for continually providing residents with training and education that matches the needs of local business and industry.
“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.