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March 4, 2004
Section: Local News

Stark County woman testifies at congressional education hearing
Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON � Using teachers to push poor students toward college could make a big difference in furthering educational accomplishment without costing the government a lot of money, Rep. Ralph Regula was told at a hearing Wednesday.
J.B. Schramm, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based College Summit, said teachers can play the role of �manager� in guiding their students toward higher education.

He was among several authorities who explored ways to improve education from preschool through college during a congressional hearing chaired by Regula, R-Bethlehem Township.

Another witness was Adrienne O�Neill, president of the Stark Education Partnership. She shared her experiences administering a partnership between schools, colleges and businesses in Stark County.

O�Neill said progress has been made in reducing the dropout rate and guiding more students toward higher education in Stark County, thanks to a �compact� of leaders from businesses, schools and colleges formed in 2002.

�Graduation rates are going up and college-going rates are going up,� she said.

The partnership�s initiatives include a Web site that lists financial aid available to students. The compact also finances a program where counselors help at-risk students to complete college applications, she said.

Another Stark County initiative helps prepare high school students for the American College Test, an admissions requirement at many colleges.

Schramm told Regula that many poor students who are qualified for college never make it there because they lack encouragement from their parents, who never went to college themselves.

Each year, about 200,000 poor students who are qualified for higher education do not go to college, he said.

�They didn�t have anyone to play the manager role,� he said.

In contrast, middle-class kids with the same qualifications have parents who typically have been to college and understand how to apply. The parents nag them through the process, he said.

Schramm said College Summit has trained teachers to push their students toward higher education in the absence of parents familiar with the process. The organization has offices in several states, including California and Illinois, but not in Ohio.

Of 5,000 students involved in the program, 79 percent have enrolled in college, compared to an average of 46 percent nationwide, Schramm said. Of students from the program who enrolled, 80 percent remain in college, he said.

Regula chairs a congressional appropriations subcommittee that provides funding for educational programs. He told the authorities at the hearing that he could make some money available for their programs.

O�Neill urged that any federal funds be awarded to specific �strategies� or programs undertaken by state or regional educational councils, rather than to the organizations themselves.

Schramm said federal funds would be useful as seed money for projects. But the bulk of funding should come from schools and businesses, which would benefit from better-educated people, he said.

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