This photograph shows the sign marking the location of Northwest State Community College in Van Wert County on Westwood Drive. (DHI Media/Ed Gebert)
This photograph shows the sign marking the location of Northwest State Community College in Van Wert County on Westwood Drive. (DHI Media/Ed Gebert)

VAN WERT — Last month, Northwest State Community College was named by the Ohio Board of Regents as the designated community college for Van Wert County. Upon hearing that news, very few in Van Wert County knew what that meant. According to Mari Yoder, Vice-President of Institutional Advancement at Northwest State, it is a designation to keep community colleges from stepping on each other’s toes.

“The way the community college system in the state is laid out is that not all counties have a designated community college, but a number of them do,” she explained. “Prior to this inclusion, Northwest State had Williams, Fulton, Henry, and Paulding Counties as our designated counties. That means we are servicing that area. If another community college wanted to come in and offer classes in a certain community, they would have to be invited in. They couldn’t come in and open a classroom site without being invited by that community. The Ohio Board of Regents would not allow that. But if we were not doing what the county wanted or if we didn’t want to do a certain program, and the county commissioners wanted it and we refused, they could go to another institution and ask if they would offer them, and they could. It must be by invitation.”

Although the designation is new, Northwest State has had a presence in the county since 2004 when it first offered classes through the adult education program.

“We’ve had a nursing program in Van Wert County for a number of years. That program is still going strong. It’s actually been filled for this fall, so they have started a waiting list, which is awesome,” Yoder shared. “The nice thing about starting a waiting list is that most students, when they come into a program, they have some prerequisite classes they need to take anyway, so they start on those. It’s not that they don’t start taking classes, they just aren’t officially in the nursing program yet.”

She continued, “Because of some of the prerequisites that are required for nursing, that allows other people to take some of those classes that would be applied to another degree also, like general education classes that can be taken for first-year students who want to start taking classes locally, often for a lot less money, before moving on to another institution.”

The Northwest State location in Van Wert is at 1119 Westwood Dr., Suite B, but classes are also offered online and in cooperation with local high schools.

“We hope to be able to work with all your area high schools to work on dual enrollment or college credit type programs to offer to the juniors and seniors, where the students can take some classes at their high school or if the schools want, to send them over to our site,” said Yoder. “Lately we’ve been trying to work more where we take the classes into the classroom, either online or working with their instructors or bringing our instructors in if they have enough students who are interested.”

Aside from the nursing program, Northwest State is continuing it’s association with Vantage Career Center’s Adult Education program. Classes in industrial automation maintenance have been offered, and beginning this fall, classes will be taught in CNC operations, wind turbine maintenance, pipe welding, and truck driving. Those programs are certificate programs, usually from 16-20 weeks in length.

Yoder noted, “Those are truly things that can get people into jobs quickly. There is a huge need for a lot of these jobs. These programs are being created based on industry demand.”

Northwest State Community College plans to expand its presence in Van Wert County.

“We’ve been trying to get a medical assisting program going over there. At this point, we’re tried to run some classes, but we haven’t been able to fill them. But we’re hoping that as we have a bigger presence there, we’re going to be able to re-offer that program,” she stated. “It’s a natural fit with the nursing program. We have the lab space there. But we are also looking to bring more general education courses there as demand allows. We’d like to bring some business programs over there also.

Educational options for students and adults alike continue to expand in Van Wert County beyond the traditional higher education model, thanks to the involvement of Northwest State and the cooperation of Vantage Career Center.