An end could be in sight to the long courtship between and the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine.
Trustees at Kent State agreed Tuesday to enter into exclusive talks with the podiatry school about the idea of folding the college into Kent State's operations. Officials with both parties have been in talks for months about a potential merger.
Jacqueline Woods, chair of the trustee board at Kent State, said the agreement approved yesterday means Kent State will "enter into an exclusive arrangement with (OCPM) to continue due diligence that might ultimately lead to merger acquisition within six months of the first of the year."
Last month, university officials released a statement saying both schools had progressed significantly in talks to merge the two and create the Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine. The podiatry school, located in Independence, OH, is a four year, non-profit graduate level medical school.
Kent State University President Lester Lefton likened the months of merger talks to a relationship, as if the two schools were "dating," and said the exclusive agreement means OCPM will no longer be talking to other schools about a possible merger.
"We're sort of engaged now, is how I would put it," Lefton said. "We're no longer dating. This was our commitment to them that we are very serious about this. They have made a similar commitment to us."
Lefton said there are nine podiatry colleges in the U.S., and the OCPM was one of two that was not associated with a larger college or university. The podiatry college had been looking for such a partnership for a few years when legislative liaisons for both schools met and talked about the possible merger with Kent State.
Dr. David R. Nicolanti, executive vice president of OCPM, told Kent Patch previously that the podiatry college had been considering partnerships with Ohio universities for several years to improve the clinical experience of its students.
"A 40,000-student university offers some advantages a 400-student college does not," Nicolanti said.
OCPM graduates about 110 students annually with a doctorate of podiatric medicine. Founded in 1916, it has graduated about 5,000 total students.
There are no plans to change tuition at the school if the merger happens. And there would be no immediate changes in faculty at the podiatry college, Lefton said.
He added that the OCPM is "cash positive" and runs a profit of a few million dollars annually.
"This (merger) will not lose money for Kent State," Lefton said.
The podiatry school's board of trustees would be dissolved, but its members would likely become an advisory board to the new podiatry school much like Kent State has advisory boards for its journalism, art and other schools.
Woods said she visited the college with other members of the Kent State trustee board two weeks ago and came away impressed with the quality of the students, faculty and physical plant.
"It gave us a chance to demonstrate to them how governance works at Kent State," she said. "The trustees were there and talked about what they do as trustees and how things operate at a board and policy level. Several members of our current advisory boards ... went with us, so they could describe to the current board at the (OCPM) what an advisory board does and how engaged they are."
Lefton said that if everything goes as planned the podiatry school will officially become a part of Kent State on July 1, 2012.