The Stark County Promise
When it was announced in 2006, the "Kalamazoo Promise" sent shock waves through its mid-sized Michigan community. A group of anonymous donors had promised scholarships of up to $40,000 for all district graduates going on to college. The annual cost was projected at a staggering $12 million. What followed is not surprising. Housing gained in value as much as 15%. District enrollment began to soar.
Other communities across the nation began to look at ways to duplicate the "Promise." Few can do so. In Cincinnati a group is trying. They need to raise $500 million. Yet, there is one Ohio community that is quietly putting into place a multi-faceted program that will emerge as a new kind of promise. That community is Stark County.
When Ohio Governor Ted Strickland announced in January a plan called Seniors to Sophomores to allow seniors to earn their first year of college at no charge while in high school, many people said it could not be done. In April the state offered forty-two initial pilot grants to districts to work out the details. Eleven of these grants went to Stark County*, more than any other county in the state.
Why here? Seniors to Sophomores is more than just giving students an opportunity to spend their senior year on a college campus. It's also about using all the other postsecondary opportunities available to students to earn college credit while in high school. For the last several years, Stark districts and colleges have been working to maximize these opportunities. Here is a re-cap:
These are officially reported figures and baseline only. Numbers for
- In 2006-07, 396 Stark
students took college courses under the Post Secondary Enrollment Option.
- Early College High School
now enrolls 223 students simultaneously working on a high school diploma and college associate degree.
- Advanced Placement scores
of three or better were earned by 1,291 students qualifying
for college credit in 2007.
- Tech Prep programs across
the county enroll 1,769 students, giving the opportunity to bank credit for when they
go on to college.
the 2007-08 academic year increased substantially and larger increases are expected in the fall. Using a very conservative figure of $309 for a three-hour course, these baseline figures alone represent nearly $4 million a year in college savings for Stark students and parents. Those savings are here today, and the Stark County Promise will continue to grow.
*The eleven grants were awarded to Canton City, Canton Local, Fairless Local, Jackson Local, Lake Local, Massillon City, North Canton City, Osnaburg Local, Perry Local, Plain Local and Sandy Valley Local school districts. The grant period is for one year from July 2008 through June 2009.