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Presidents of the five higher education institutions that serve Summit and Portage counties gather for the Talent Dividend Prize announcement in Washington, D.C. Pictured (left to right) are Jay Gershen of Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), Para Jones of Stark State College, Beverly Warren of Kent State University, Lori Varlotta of Hiram College and Scott Scarborough of the University of Akron.
Hiram College’s innovative degree completion and retention programs helped the Akron region secure a $1 million grand prize from CEOs for Cities for its growth in college degree attainment over the past four years.
CEOs for Cities announced on Oct. 29, 2014, in Washington, D.C., that the Akron Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had the biggest improvement in degree attainment in the nation, out of the 57 regions competing in the National Talent Dividend. The Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (NOCHE) accepted the award on behalf of the Akron MSA educational community which is composed of Hiram College, Kent State University, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Stark State College and The University of Akron. These funds will make possible additional college attainment initiatives throughout the region.
“This award helps to symbolize and actualize the collaborative partnerships that exist between Hiram College, the other regional colleges and universities in Northeast Ohio, and NOCHE,” said Lori Varlotta, president of Hiram College. “Hiram takes great pride in being a part of the region’s efforts to improve degree attainment. I am especially proud, however, of Hiram’s success in educating and graduating – in very large proportions – first generation students, most of whom ultimately live, learn and earn in Northeast Ohio.”
Varlotta attended the award ceremony, along with presidents from Kent State University, The University of Akron, Northeast Ohio Medical University and Stark State College, the colleges and universities that are part of the Akron MSA.
The $1 million will be used throughout the region to support future postsecondary attainment initiatives. NOCHE and its members will share the bulk of the award. Other organizations that came on-board at the beginning to support entry into the national Talent Dividend Prize competition are partners in the local Greater Akron program and will receive smaller amounts. They are Portage County Educational Services Center, Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce, Akron Public Schools, Summit County Council and Summit Education Initiative.
Two of the defining efforts that led to the Akron area’s recognition were collaborations between Hiram College and other institutions in the region:
Hiram College also contributed to regional degree attainment through several of its own initiatives. The MAP-Works program, implemented in 2011, has positively impact traditional student retention. In 2013, students who accessed their MAP-Works report persisted from fall to spring at a rate of 91 percent, compared to a rate of 81 percent for those who did not access the report. A survey-based program, MAP-Works empowers faculty and staff to positively impact student success and retention by identifying student issues and concerns early in the term. The program provides Hiram with the information necessary to identify and coordinate interventions with transitioning, high achieving, and high-risk students.
Over the past year, Hiram College awarded bachelor’s degrees to 32 students who completed requirements entirely on a community college campus. These students, the first of many to come, earned their bachelor of arts in accounting within 18 months of enrolling in Hiram’s partnership program with Lorain County Community College. 82 percent of these students earned their degree while working, and they boasted an average grade point average of 3.4. Hiram College now has established partnership programs at Lakeland Community College and Cuyahoga Community College, Eastern Campus.
According to CEOs for Cities, the Akron MSA produced 2,139 more postsecondary degrees than four years ago for an astonishing 20 percent increase. The increase in degrees awarded was a result of cross-regional and cross-sector collaboration including two-year, four-year, public and private higher education institutions and their many collaborating partners. The Northeast Ohio Talent Dividend galvanized support for collective impact in raising educational attainment across four metropolitan areas, including Akron.
“We are so proud to recognize the achievements of Greater Akron and its peers across the country,” said Noel Harmon, national director of the Talent Dividend. “This award is the result of years of hard work, and we are hopeful all of Northeast Ohio’s cross collaborative efforts provide inspiration and a roadmap for other cities as they work to increase postsecondary attainment.
Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (NOCHE) has been leading Northeast Ohio Talent Dividend in four metropolitan areas (Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Youngstown) since 2009, as part of the national contest.
“Northeast Ohio boasts a gigantic increase of 92,000 more college degree holders since the Talent Dividend began, a substantial gain of almost three percentage points in attainment,” said Shawn Brown, vice president of the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education. “The accomplishments in Summit and Portage Counties are significant, and they are part of an even bigger success story on college access and completion that has accelerated brain gain across Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Youngstown.”