Ashland University Receives Approval to Merge With MedCentral College of Nursing

7/1/10 ASHLAND, OH -- The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has given Ashland University approval to merge with MedCentral College of Nursing and an official merger agreement will be signed on July 6.

"We have received approval for the merger from the Higher Learning Commission and are now able to move forward with an agreement that calls for the merger to be effective as of Aug. 15," said Ashland University Provost Dr. Frank Pettigrew. "We are very excited because this merger falls in line with Ashland University's strategic plan to expand its health science curriculum due to the shortage of qualified health care professionals."

In March, Ashland University and MedCentral Health System had signed a letter of intent to transfer MedCentral's College of Nursing operations to Ashland University; however the merger needed approval from the Higher Learning Commission and the Ohio Board of Regents. The Board of Regents approved the merger in April.

Located in Mansfield, Ohio, MedCentral College of Nursing has approximately 380 students enrolled in a traditional nursing education program as well as an accelerated program.

The official merger signing will be held July 6 at 2 p.m. at MedCentral's Academic Building located on Glessner Avenue.

"We see this as a great opportunity to enhance and expand our academic offerings in the fields of nursing and health science professions," Pettigrew said. "Both institutions have put forth an extraordinary effort to make all of this happen in a very short period of time and I want to thank all of those involved for all of their hard work."

The official agreement calls for Ashland University to lease the program's Academic Building located on Glessner Avenue as well as the two residence halls located on the Balgreen Campus at the corner of Marion Avenue and Trimble Road.

Ashland University President Dr. Frederick Finks said the approval from the Higher Learning Commission also signals the launching of a focused campaign to raise funds for a new facility in Mansfield.

"We will continue to operate the nursing program in its present location on Glessner Avenue for now, but we will engage in a focused campaign to raise funds to construct a new academic building on the Balgreen campus," Finks said. "This acquisition and pledge to build in Richland County reflects a long-term commitment to the community of Mansfield as well as Richland and surrounding counties."

Finks said the theme for the building campaign, "Compassion, Community, Commitment...Building a Healthy Tomorrow," captures the essence of the blending of the Ashland and Mansfield communities. "We believe that investing in the training of future nurses will touch all generations and ensure quality health care for the state of Ohio," Finks added.

James E. Meyer, MedCentral Health System president and CEO, agrees with Finks.

"The tradition of nursing education in Mansfield will continue with Ashland University's commitment to our community," Meyer said. "MedCentral's hospitals will continue to be the clinical training site for students and we look forward to a new academic facility on the Balgreen Campus."

Faye Grund, who had served as president of MedCentral College of Nursing, will become an interim dean for the new Ashland University College of Nursing. The current Ashland University Department of Nursing will transition into the new College of Nursing.

"We believe the blending of the two nursing programs - Ashland University's and MedCentral's - will benefit the community," Grund said. "The programs are not duplications and, together, strengthen nursing education in our region."

Pettigrew said the University is moving ahead in establishing an Ashland University College of Nursing, which will be in place for fall semester. "The transition from a Department of Nursing to a College of Nursing will provide the visibility that is needed for this academic program and also allow for the further expansion of our online RN-to-BSN program," he said.

Pettigrew said the College of Nursing will serve as the foundation for the health sciences programs and will be the catalyst for future program expansion in this area.

MedCentral College of Nursing was founded in 1997 as a private institution of higher education offering programs of study leading to the baccalaureate degree in nursing. The College evolved from a hospital-based diploma program, which was established in 1919 by the Mansfield General Hospital. MedCentral boasts more than 1,500 nursing alumni.

Ashland University (www.ashland.edu<http://www.ashland.edu>) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.