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Gates Foundation's investments in Ohio, Stark rewarded

By Anonymous
Posted May 26, 2011 @ 12:00 PM
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With more than $38 billion in assets, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to the world of nonprofits what Microsoft is to the electronics industry — a giant. When the foundation speaks, a lot of people listen, which is good because of what it is saying about Ohio.

The foundation has just launched a $36 million project to increase the number of students age 16 to 26 who graduate from college. The grants will be divided among four states, including Ohio, and the five recipients of the Ohio money include Stark State College.

“Ohio is a place that people pay attention to nationally,” according to the foundation’s senior program officer, Suzanne Walsh. “It has a great history of invention and innovation.”

When the naysayers look at Ohio, all they might see is economic setbacks related to the loss of manufacturing jobs. The Gates Foundation sees the potential here for success in education because its past investments in Ohio — and in particular, Stark County — have paid off.

In 2002, the foundation launched the early college high school movement and helped to fund an Early College High School program in Canton, one of the first in the state. The program graduates high school students with two years of college credit or an associate’s degree from Stark State, giving these young people a head start on both four-year degrees and the job market.

The Gates Foundation also has held up as a model for its goals the Stark Education Partnership, which for 22 years has worked to make measurable progress in educating Stark County’s young people. In part because of the Stark Education Partnership’s efforts, Stark County is making better progress than the state and the nation as a whole in increasing the percentage of residents who have earned a college degree.

The Gates Foundation could have plunked millions of dollars down in any state to advance its education goals. The fact that it sees such potential in Ohio and in Stark County is a welcome reminder of the role that innovation has been playing in education here.


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