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Four-year programs at community colleges face ‘underground’ opposition

By Max Filby, Dayton Daily News
November 9th, 2016

In Ohio, a struggle has emerged over a plan to offer four-year degrees at community colleges.

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Ohio’s Sinclair Community College wants to offer four-year degrees, but its president says the plan is getting push-back from an influential lobby: traditional four-year universities.

“Universities are fearful, they’re afraid and we wish they weren’t,” Sinclair President Steve Johnson said.

House Bill 474, which would allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees, is expected to die in the Ohio House before the end of the year, said Tom Walsh, vice president of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.

Walsh agreed with Johnson that there has been resistance from universities and says that stance is “understandable.”

Bruce Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, could not be reached for comment. But in testimony to a Statehouse committee in May, he referred to the concept as “troubling.”

“The last thing we want is a new state policy resulting in community colleges moving away from what it is they do well, which is standing up technical or applied degree programs nimbly and quickly in response to the workforce needs of the community or region,” Bruce Johnson told state representatives.

Stephen Mockabee, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati representing the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors, told state representatives they should “re-examine” the proposal.

“The state should allow community colleges to continue to do what they do well, and allow universities to do what they do well,” Mockabee told representatives in May.

‘More competition’

Efforts to prevent community colleges from being able to offer bachelor’s degrees has been “underground” but effective, Johnson said. The fear, he said, stems from the thought that community colleges would compete more with universities, such as Wright State or the University of Dayton.

(Next page: What more competition might mean to institutions)


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