BARBERTON: Starting Monday, Stark State gets a new home for its Barberton satellite: the former National Guard Armory.
The city’s Community Foundation invested about $2 million to buy and revamp the 57-year-old building at Norton Avenue and Barber Road for the two-year public college.
“This is just huge for the image of the community,” said Carl Bako, a spokesman for the foundation, which was founded 16 years ago with proceeds from the sale of Barberton Citizens Hospital. “We made this investment because we thought it was good for the community.”
The foundation has spent the past year refurbishing the property for Stark State, one of the largest two-year colleges in Ohio.
The foundation bought the property for $410,000 in 2008, originally as an investment.
When Stark State began offering classes for its two-year and associate degree programs at Barberton High the next year, the foundation decided to spend another $1.8 million to transform the building into Barberton’s first, fully fledged college facility — albeit a satellite to the college’s main campus in Jackson Township.
Construction took about a year, as the building needed a lot of work. It had been used as an armory from 1956 to 2003, when the Ohio National Guard closed it as part of a cost-cutting move. In recent years it had served as a warehouse for city and school district equipment and odds and ends.
The foundation installed everything from new windows to current technology, repaved the parking lot and added new lighting. The college invested $800,000 in furnishings and equipment.
The building now has five classrooms, including two computer labs, for courses in math, information technology, accounting, science and English.
New to Stark State’s Barberton offerings, although not to the college itself, is a welding program that will start with 10 welding booths and can be expanded to 20 if demand warrants.
Don Ball, Stark State’s dean of engineering, industrial and emerging technologies, said the college’s welding program is “moderately aggressive,” with a total of about 100 students now.
“The [growing] oil and gas industry has fairly high-paying jobs and can attract people from other areas, leaving vacancies at intermediate welding levels,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of heavy demand from industry.”
Stark State students will pay the lowest credit-hour price in Summit County — $147 per credit hour compared to $241 at Kent State’s Twinsburg Academic Center and $281 at UA’s Summit College.
Those tuition payments will help to pay for Stark State’s 10-year lease at about $11,175 a month.
The University of Akron will continue to offer a small satellite program at the high school for about 100 students. Eventually UA could sublease some of the new Stark State space if it chose, Bako said.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.