The University of Akron and Akron Public Schools taking their collaborative efforts to the next level -- so long as state lawmakers go along with the idea.
University President Dr. Luis Proenza and Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James tag-teaming members of the General Assembly in Columbus Wednesday, hoping to drum up support for changes in state law that would give first refusal of public school property for sale to universities. In exchange, universities would lend local school districts assistance across a wide range of products and services, including teacher training and even scholarships.
In Akron's case, when the former Central Hower High School is fully de-commissioned by the Akron school district the University would have an appraisal performed, and convert the value of the property for full scholarships for students in the top 10% of their class or graduate with at least a 3.0 grade point average. Students, regardless of class rank, have to achieve certain ACT scores to quality.
If state lawmakers approve State Representative Lynn Slaby's "Innovation Generation Scholarships" measure, it would allow such partnerships across the state. The U of A and APS already partner on other efforts, including the STEM school at the old Inventors Hall of Fame.
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(University of Akron) Ohio legislators are being asked to approve a novel concept in the transfer of ownership of public school property to public universities for the purpose of advancing public education. The request is a unique approach to creating the building blocks necessary for a new scholarship program at The University of Akron.
“This is an innovative way to launch our new Innovation Generation Scholarship,” explains Luis M. Proenza, president of The University of Akron. “Through this scholarship, we will offer Akron Public School students who have worked hard and performed well in school full tuition to the University.”
Last month, The University of Akron released its strategic plan, Vision 2020: A new Gold Standard of University Performance. The Vision includes an ambitious growth in enrollment and unique programs to help students succeed in college and in the workforce. Student success includes connecting the academic experience with community and industry, so that the knowledge acquired in college inspires innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to solving societal and economic problems.
“Our students must be prepared for a world of rapid change and growth,” says Proenza. “Our new Innovation Generation Scholarship will provide expansive opportunities for the motivated student. We know that scholarship programs like this incentivize students to work harder to achieve better grades, increase graduation rates from high school and college, and ease the financial burden on students and families. 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.”
Proenza and Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James appeared together today before the House Education Committee to ask for support for House Bill 381. Specifically, the legislation would require a public school district that is selling a building (real property) to offer that property first to a state university. The university could accept the offer and, in exchange, provide the school district with in-kind services or educational programs valued at the appraised fair market value of the property.
The new legislation would apply directly to Central-Hower High School (photo, left), a 230,000 square foot facility that is located on the main campus of the University. Due to declining enrollment in the Akron Public Schools, Central-Hower is scheduled for decommissioning. In his sponsorship of HB381, State Representative Lynn Slaby suggested that such decommissioned properties be made available first to public universities through the exchange of in-kind services "in the form of assisting the public school district, its teachers, administrators and students, through a broad array of higher education expertise, initiatives and incentives, all with a focus on increasing the college readiness of students."
If the legislation is approved, the University of Akron would use the appraised value of Central-Hower HS to launch the Innovation Generation Scholarship. Graduates of the APS would be eligible for full tuition scholarships if they:
- Have a 3.0 high school GPA and score a 27 on the ACT, or
- Rank in the 10% of their high school class and score a 26 on the ACT, or
- Have a 3.5 high school GPA and score a 24 on the ACT.
“We developed these criteria to provide motivation and incentive for students to prepare themselves for college, and for parents and schools to support the students’ aspiration,” said Proenza. “As part of our new Vision 2020, we are building pathways to success for each of our students. Those pathways really begin before they set foot on our campus.”
The University already has partnerships with the Akron Public Schools through the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM middle school, and the Early College Program.
According to David James, APS Superintendent, “the Early College program offers Akron public high school students a truly unique experience. They take courses on campus while they’re still in high school, and by the time they’ve graduated from high school, they’ve earned college credits; some receive an associate’s degree and move on seamlessly to further higher ed. We take pride in the fact that the students in the early college program at the University outperform nearly all their peers throughout Summit County. This is clear evidence that our students will excel, when given opportunities and access. The new Innovation Generation Scholarship opens more doors to more of our students by removing the financial barriers to higher education.”
The Innovation Generation Scholarship would be available to eligible APS graduates following the approval of HB381 and the appraisal of the Central-Hower property.
The University of Akron believes that the launch of the Innovation Generation Scholarship through this novel public/public partnership to support public education will act as a catalyst for other community leaders, foundations, and industry to broaden the funding, sustain and grow the scholarship program, and expand opportunities for students throughout the state.