Akron Public Schools graduates who meet eligibility criteria set by The University of Akron and the Akron Board of Education may now earn special scholarships to UA thanks to an innovative arrangement that leverages the value of a decommissioned public school building near the university's campus.
At a special meeting Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, the Akron Board of Education voted 6-1 to transfer the old Central-Hower High School to UA. The property, located at 123 S. Forge St., was valued at $13.5 million. That amount will now fund the Akron Public Schools Innovation Generation Scholarship.
The program, originally announced in February 2012, is a bold new effort to grow Akron's next generation of innovators from its own backyard.
The university's Board of Trustees indicated on Wednesday, Dec. 12, that the agreement would be acceptable to them. The agreement must still be signed before the deal becomes official.
"One of our top priorities is graduating students who are college and career ready," APS Superintendent David W. James said. "This agreement will go a long way toward making that goal a reality by giving students a truly valuable carrot to reach for."
Under House Bill 487 (Section 733.10), Ohio legislators approved a novel concept in the transfer of ownership of specific public school property located adjacent to a public university for the purpose of advancing public education. The university could accept the offer and, in exchange, provide the school district with in-kind services or educational programs or assistance valued at an amount reasonably related to the appraised fair market value of the property. The new legislation applied directly to Central-Hower, a 230,000-square-foot facility located in the middle of the main campus of the university.
A portion of the building is currently home to APS' new STEM High School. The high school will continue to operate from the building for the near future.
APS graduates who plan to pursue a bachelor's degree at UA would be eligible for the scholarships if they first meet the following three minimum criteria:
Once the minimum criteria are met, then the student must satisfy additional criteria as set forth by the Akron Board of Education.
Currently, more than 20 APS seniors who have applied and been admitted to UA for the fall of 2013 may qualify for the APS Innovation Generation Scholarship based on their current GPA and test scores. The Akron Board of Education is currently drafting the final set of criteria that must be met for participation in the APS Innovation Generation Scholarship program.
Once awarded, the tuition and general fee scholarship is renewable upon maintaining a minimum 3.0 college GPA. Students must attend UA full-time in pursuit of a bachelor's degree. The tuition scholarship will be reduced by any outside grants or other scholarships the student receives that apply to tuition payments.
"This is the first agreement of its kind in the state," APS Board President Jason Haas said. "It's yet another example of how our district embraces innovative ideas to help our students."
APS Board member Tim Miller voted against the agreement. Miller clarified that he supports the university but would have preferred a cash deal and endowment so the benefits could grow over time.
APS plans to work with civic and business groups to sustain the APS Innovation Generation Scholarship program even after the original $13.5 million is gone.
UA President Luis M. Proenza says he hopes the scholarship program encourages students to work harder to achieve better grades.
"Scholarship programs like this increase graduation rates from high school and college and ease the financial burden on students and families," Proenza said. "The scholarship opportunity allows students to go to college full time, rather than have to balance college and part-time work, which usually delays graduation."
For more information, contact APS Superintendent David W. James at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330.761.2920 or Eileen Korey, chief communications officer for The University of Akron, at email@example.com or 330.972.8589.
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