Carol Biliczky

Students seem to be giving a thumbs-up to Kent State’s new Regional Academic Center in Twinsburg.

Only three days into the start of fall semester, enrollment there has grown about 16 percent, to 900 students, over the same time last year.

These are early days, as students come and go at the start of the semester. Enrollment won’t stabilize for a week or so.

Nonetheless, Dean David Mohan of Kent State’s Geauga campus predicts the new center, near Interstate 480, will be a big hit.

This is an “express” campus for busy adults, he said.

“Fifty-five percent of our students are nontraditional, so they have families and jobs,” Mohan said. “They say, ‘Give me my class and let me get out of here.’ This is a stripped-down version [of a university].”

The 44,000-square-foot, wireless center is an extension of KSU’s Geauga County branch in Burton.

It is a bigger and more sophisticated version of the satellite KSU center that started in 1991 at the Daimler Chrysler Stamping Plant in Twinsburg and later moved to a former school the city of Twinsburg owned.

The new center has 16 general-?purpose classrooms, four computer classrooms, an outdoor patio, two executive suites with high-end furniture for corporate rental, student services such as financial aid, and shower facilities for students who ride bikes.

The center is focusing on general education courses for beginning students at any level of preparedness — perhaps even those who have been turned away at other tax-supported universities.

For example, the University of Akron, the only other tax-supported university in Summit County, now requires students to have ACT scores of 17 or higher on the standardized test scale of 0 to 36. Cleveland State requires students to have ACTs of 16 or higher.

So it might not be surprising that more than 90 percent of the classes at the Twinsburg Center are at the freshmen or sophomore level. Students can complete the first two years of most baccalaureate programs there. All classes are small — no more than 24 students.

“We’re getting people set up to pursue four-year degrees elsewhere,” Mohan said. “If it’s Kent, that’s great.”

The university turned to the Summit County Development Finance Authority (formerly the Port Authority) and the owner of the property, Fairmount Properties of Cleveland, for help in funding the project.

Fairmount agreed to build the facility and assign the lease to the Finance Authority. The Akron agency agreed to issue $13.7 million in tax-exempt bonds to fund construction of the center on 15 acres. KSU can buy the property at years 10, 15 or 20 of the agreement.

Total payback over the full life of the lease would be $26 million.

For students, the cost is relatively economical. Tuition and fees are the same as those of Kent State’s seven branches, which are 40 percent lower than the main campus in Kent.

Students’ biggest problem might be a common one on any campus: finding a place to park.

The center has 330 parking spaces, more than double the 140 it had at its previous leased location. At one point Monday, 300 spaces were filled.

“I thought we would be years ahead in parking, but maybe not,” Mohan said.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3729.