Our view: It’s a great time for local colleges

It is a great time to be a student at one of Luzerne County’s colleges.

That fact was made clear most recently on Friday when Wilkes University dedicated the new Mark Engineering Center, teeming with high-tech equipment in a radically renovated Stark Learning Center. The labs face the newly redone Fenner Quadrangle, visible through a wall of windows.

Wilkes University President Pat Leahy proudly noted it “puts engineering on display right in the heart of the campus,” and he is right. The facility impresses.

But that’s just one of many advances in our area institutions of higher education. The Mark Engineering Center compliments the relatively new Cohen Science Center that rose a few years ago on the other end of the Stark building.

Not to be outdone, Misericordia University is in the process of constructing it’s own new science center, one President Thomas Botzman alluded to with pride during a short ceremony Thursday at the Lehman Sanctuary, less than 9 miles from Misericordia and practically in the back yard of the Penn State Wilkes-Barre Campus.

Thanks to two small grants secured by Misericordia, the unveiled a new water quality monitoring unit that sends data to a satellite that in turn banks into a computer “cloud,” making it available for any school interested in building lessons around the new technology. In announcing the new unit, Botzman mentions his school’s science center and quipped “This is our coolest classroom.”

King’s College has been similarly making big moves, including renovation of the old Spring Brook Water Company building on North Franklin Street to house it’s expanded engineering program.

King’s has also purchased the former Times Leader building on North Main Street, and while the final purpose has yet to be determined, Business Affairs Vice President John Loyack has noted the medical programs moved into the recently renovated Ramada Hotel on Public Square is already outgrowing that space, and the Times Leader building could be used to expand as needed.

Luzerne County’s two Penn State Campuses, outside of Hazleton and in Lehman Township, have also been increasing opportunities, including helping set up business incubator centers in downtown Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton. And Luzerne County Community College keeps pushing it’s services into more places, with the Scranton center in full operation and a Pittston center in the works.

Our area colleges and universities are regularly adding programs and degrees, updating facilities and signing agreements with other schools and with businesses to give students a wide range of options. LCCC has made agreements with many area 4-year schools to fully transfer LCCC credits into a bachelor’s program. King’s has deals with the University of Notre Dame for engineering degrees and Villanova for law degrees.

The list is long, and still growing. Our small colleges and universities are proving flexible and responsive to the shifting demands of students and employers, and to the changing job market.

The winners? All of us.