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June 1, 2008
Section: Editorials

Stark hailed as education pioneer

It's a good thing Eric Fingerhut's plan to make Ohio a more educated state spans 10 years. These things take time, and Ohio is starting very far back in the pack.
But as he and other speakers noted at a local discussion Friday, Stark County is a pioneer in two essential parts of this plan. Amid all the problems of education, Stark Countians should know how highly regarded their county is in Columbus.

Fingerhut, the former state senator who is now Gov. Ted Strickland's chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, spoke to a capacity crowd at Stark State College. He reminded the audience of these disturbing facts:

Ohio is 38th of the 50 states in the percentage of the work force that has an associate or higher degree.

It will take 230,000 additional college graduates over 10 years just to bring Ohio up to average in educational attainment.

Ohio is among the 10 most expensive states for college tuition.

Happily, however, Fingerhut also had some progress to report, and much of it involved efforts being made in Stark County.

The Stark State session was the fifth of six "community conversations" Fingerhut is holding around the state. Each has a different theme. The theme Friday, chosen specifically because the event was held here, involved the link between primary and secondary education and higher education.

Strengthening this link has been the goal for nearly 20 years of the Stark Education Partnership, which Fingerhut praised for setting high standards for the rest of the state to meet.

He noted that school districts in Stark County are creating 11 of the 40 new "Seniors to Sophomores" programs around the state in which high school students attend college for credit more than any other county.

And, he said, no other institutions of higher learning in Ohio have forged a stronger relationship of collaboration and cooperation than that created by Stark State and its neighbor, the Stark Campus of Kent State University. This, too, is a standard that he is challenging other institutions to meet.

The overall goal of the 10-year plan for higher education is to make Ohio a more educated state because that is the only way for Ohio to become a more prosperous state.

Stark Countians know how important that goal is, and many of them who are in education are bringing it closer to reality.

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