Lorain County Community College is set to offer Ohio’s first bachelor of applied science in microelectronic manufacturing. Beyond being the first college in Ohio to offer a degree in MEMS, this puts LCCC among only a few community colleges in the state that can confer bachelor’s degrees.
“We heard the needs of employers and responded,” says LCCC President Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D. “This program is developed with the strong input and support of employers. 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.”
The passage of House Bill 49 in June 2017 allows Ohio to join the 20 states that currently permit community colleges to confer bachelor’s degrees. The Ohio Department of Higher Education authorized LCCC to offer the degree, although approval by the Higher Learning Commission, the accrediting body for public colleges and universities, is pending.
In 2014, LCCC launched the state’s first associate degree program in mechatronics technology with a focus in micro electromechanical systems (MEMS). The college already offers bachelor’s degrees through its University Partnership, but this is the first time it will offer baccalaureates on its own.
Microelectronic manufacturing is an interdisciplinary field that combines mechanical and electrical engineering technology with science, mathematics and communications. Engineering students work on tiny circuits — often measured on micrometer scale or smaller — that are used in computers, cell phones and other electronics. This emerging advanced manufacturing field helps companies make products and processes “smart.” It’s also a high-paying field, with graduates earning annual salaries that can start at $65,000.
“We have a 100 percent placement rate for our current mechatronics technology associate degree,” says Johnny Vanderford, LCCC assistant professor and project manager for the mechatronics technology program. “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, in-demand field.”
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 LCCC’s applied bachelor’s degree — to reach these goals.
“LCCC is ready to step up, and this program hits the mark,” Ballinger says. “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.”