Post-secondary education made a grand entrance to Grove City last week, kicking off a historic collaboration of colleges and universities that will offer undergraduate and graduate courses beginning this fall.

Post-secondary education made a grand entrance to Grove City last week, kicking off a historic collaboration of colleges and universities that will offer undergraduate and graduate courses beginning this fall.

Named the Grove City Center for Higher Education, it is a cooperative of six colleges and universities and South-Western City Schools, most of which will offer classes at the South-West Career Academy. Classes will be held at the site, via the Internet or both ways for students seeking high school diplomas or associate, undergraduate and master's degrees.

Ribbon-cutting ceremonies were held Aug. 17 at the career academy. Federal, state and local officials welcomed the confederation and top administrators from the schools outlined their goals for the center. Ashland University, Columbus State Community College, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Ohio Christian University, Otterbein University, the University of Toledo and the school district were represented.

"This is the start of a new era for our community," mayor Richard "Ike" Stage told a crowd of about 100. "What we have here is an opportunity for what I call a one-stop shop for education."

Students can take classes from a single institution or choose among them to tailor a post-secondary education. Working as the University Partnership, the institutions will grant full credit for classes from any of its members, and students can pick courses from any of the partners en route to either degrees or continuing education objectives.

To start, classes this academic year are to be offered between 5 and 10 p.m. weekdays. Ashland also will hold classes Saturdays at City Hall. If interest warrants, the center can expand to day and evening classes, possibly from a building dedicated to the center. For now, it's the start-up that is the focus for educators and administrators.

"I really want to congratulate you for your vision and your leadership," U.S. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy said. "It's an incredible opportunity to have all these resources here. It's so important to the future of Grove City and to the future of Ohio."

Several of the institutions, including Columbus State, Ashland, Otterbein and Mount Vernon, have offered classes at satellite locations for years. Officials said Ohio's only similar partnership, in Lorain, also includes Ashland University and began more than two decades ago. Ashland administrators were the first to suggest the Grove City partnership.

"Ashland is proud to be part of such a bold effort," provost Frank Pettigrew said. "Thank you for moving forward."

The number of classes offered by the institutions varies widely. Ashland, for instance, will offer a single class for administrators seeking licenses to become school superintendents. On the other end of the spectrum is the University of Toledo, which will offer hybrid in-class Internet courses in 45 degree-seeking programs. They are available by iPhone, iPad or Blackberry in addition to computer terminals.

A Columbus State employee will staff an office at the center, 4750 Big Run South Road, to answer questions about all of the programs. Information also is posted on a new website, www.GroveCityHigherEd.com and is available at 1-877-572-GROW.