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October 25, 2002
Section: Local News

Educators seek boost in college-grad rates to aid Stark economy
Repository education writer

CANTON — Only 18 percent of Stark County residents hold a bachelor’s degree.
Ohio ranks 41st out of 50 states in education level.

And the cost is high: The average annual income for families whose wage earners hold a high school diploma is $48,000, compared to $85,000 for families with bachelor’s degrees.

Stark County’s education leaders hope to change that picture.

“Half the people that we’re putting out into our community can’t really function out there,” said Canton Superintendent Dianne Talarico, discussing the city schools’ 59 percent graduation rate.

Talarico and other Stark leaders met Thursday at the McKinley Grand Hotel for a daylong session of the Stark County P-16 Compact.

The group hopes to create a “seamless” education system from preschool through college that eventually will boost graduation rates, and, in turn, strengthen the local economy.

Joseph Rochford, vice president of the Stark Education Partnership, said about a third of local college graduates leave Stark County within a year after they earn bachelor’s degrees.

That rises to half of those who earn master’s degrees and 65 percent of those who earn doctorates, he said.

It’s also hard for local businesses to sell Stark County to graduates, said Timothy Schiltz, president of the North Canton Board of Education and vice president of human resources for the Hoover Co.

“Canton, Ohio, doesn’t sound real sexy,” he said. “Our main recruiting device is, ‘It’s home.’ ”

Still, “Once you get them here, they discover there’s a lot more here in this area than they thought there was,” he said.

Roderick Chu, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, told group members that nationally, adults with some college background earn about 50 percent more than high school dropouts.

Today’s economy no longer needs large numbers of unskilled laborers, he said.

“Education and re-education are becoming a lifelong need. ... The higher education of the masses is a fundamental need of any economy that hopes to succeed,” he said.

The compact compiled a report that notes student achievement is on the rise in Stark, and schools are placing increasingly more emphasis on training staff and developing principals into leaders.

It also cites innovative local programs and initiatives.

Chu and others praised the group — which will continue to meet to discuss education — as a model for the rest of Ohio.

“It’s really a landmark kind of effort,” said Chad Wick, president and chief executive officer of the Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation.

You can reach Repository education writer Susan R. Schell at (330) 580-8339 or e-mail:

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