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MARION - Richard Cordray, Ohio’s Democratic candidate for governor, visited the Palace Theatre on Friday to address a crowd representing community colleges across the state.

Attending the annual conference of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC), Cordray said he wanted to learn how the state could better invest in higher education. 

"This (community colleges) is becoming an increasingly important network of education and training for young people and also middle-aged people who are having to transition their careers, which we have a lot in Ohio these days." the gubernatorial candidate said on Friday. 

The former state attorney general and state treasurer, told the crowd that it is important to him that community colleges stay an affordable option for those seeking to acquire skills demanded by employers. 

"(Community colleges) Are filling the gap as universities have become less and less affordable," Cordray said.  

Ohio ranks 45 in the nation when it comes to the affordability of higher education, according to a Vanderbilt University study.

He told the Star on Friday that his team is looking at ways to draw more people into programs offered by community colleges across the state. He said state and federal funding is one way to attract students. 

"It important to leverage federal grants so those who work hard can come through debt free," he added. "It is very important for that to be available to people in Ohio."

Members of Cordray's campaign said this is just one of many stops across the state as they talk to educators on how to get more people to consider higher education as an option.

"There is a whole basket of options here, whether it be skills training, certifications in a particular field or a stepping stone to a four-year degree," Cordray said.

The 59-year-old former federal consumer watchdog said programs and workforce development offered by community colleges across the state is one way to tackle an increasing skilled labor gap. 

"What we are seeing all over the country is that getting additional training and skills in education beyond K-12 is really crucial in today's workforce," he said.

Tom Walsh, who is the vice president of the OACC, told the Star on Friday that it is important for state leaders and educators to have a close relationship.

"Our goal is to provide skills to those who need it, while keeping it affordable," he said. "In order to do that we need to come together and make sure we are on the same page."

HKarim@nncogannett.com

740-375-5154

Tweet me @Hasan_Marion

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