KENT: Kent State trustees agreed Tuesday to take steps to acquire the independent Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine.
KSU President Lester Lefton said he hopes to bring details of a merger or acquisition to trustees within six months.
''We see it as a strategic alignment,'' Lefton said. ''They like us. We like them.''
The 430-student, four-year medical school in Independence is among nine accredited podiatry colleges nationwide, seven of which are affiliated with a university or hospital.
The podiatric college wanted to find a partner and happened on KSU as a possible suitor when legislative liaisons for the two institutions compared notes, Lefton said.
Dr. David Nicolanti, the podiatric college's executive vice president, could not be reached for comment.
KSU officials and trustees visited the medical college's 27-acre campus in southern Cuyahoga County over the past few weeks before deciding to pursue what Lefton called an ''exclusive'' relationship.
He said some spots in each class of 120 students probably would be reserved for KSU graduates. KSU students in public health, nursing, anthropology and biomedical sciences would benefit by having podiatry classes under the university's menu of offerings.
Lefton also said the medical college appears to be financially healthy.
''This will not lose money for Kent State,'' he said.
He said tuition probably would stay at the current level of $31,000, at least initially, and KSU would not make any wholesale changes in staffing at first. The medical college campus would remain in Independence.
Lefton said the OCPM board of trustees would be disbanded if KSU acquires the college, but individuals probably would find roles as advisers and as members of the podiatry college's foundation.
Trustees of both institutions would have to approve the merger, which could be in place by July, the start of the next academic year.
Podiatrists specialize in prevention and treatment of foot disorders and face promising job prospects because of an active, overweight and increasingly older population, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
OCPM was founded in 1916 and is the only accredited school of podiatry in Ohio.
In other business, KSU trustees approved:
•?A 1.5 percent raise to base pay for 1,400 employees not covered by bargaining units. The increase will be retroactive to Sept. 1 and will be included in the Dec. 23 paychecks. The raise will cost the university an additional $1.8 million a year.
•?Agreed to buy three more parcels of property west of campus for the extension of an esplanade, or walking path.
The university will pay $570,000 for property at 209 S. Willow St. owned by MCP Willow 09 LLC; $400,000 for 210 S. Willow St., owned by George and Patricia Waliga; and $450,000 for land at 208 S. Lincoln St., owned by Jay and Margie Waliga.
All parcels have boarding houses with multiple bedrooms. The buildings will be knocked down next spring to make way for the brick and concrete walkway linking the campus to downtown.
•?Agreed to spend $30 million to replace the heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems in the Tri-Tower residence halls, Kent State's largest housing complex.
The project, which will include new windows and new roofs, will be completed over four consecutive summers. The improvement will be funded by bonds paid back by student fees currently in place. The complex is more than 40 years old.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.