UA among northeast Ohio group awarded $1 million prize


By William Singer, News Editor


The University of Akron, along with a group of several other universities, and the Northeast Ohio Council on Education were awarded a $1 million in the Talent Dividend competition.

The competition, sponsored by CEOs for Cities, awarded the university’s efforts to improve degree attainment amongst their students.

During a conference call with members of the media, President Scarborough expressed his excitement about the award.

“I think on this day we’re just all very excited about the opportunity to share this with all the many folks on our campuses that have developed all the new programs, and improved all of our processes just to make sure that students have the very best chance to graduate when they begin their college journey,”  Scarborough said. “I think one of the unique aspects to the prize is that it stimulated innovation in all of our campuses and it all took different forms.”

Many of the steps taken to improve the degree attainment rates for students can be traced to the advisory level, where student advisors have made an extra effort to keep their students on track with a process called “intrusive advising.”

“How advising used to look was it was the students’ responsibility to come in. It was very transactional,” said Stacey Moore, associate vice president of Student Success.

“‘Intrusive’ means it’s more proactive, it’s not reactive. You don’t wait for a student to come to you,”  Moore said. “[The advisors] are checking, they’re tracking, they’re building those relationships with students; you’re not leaving anything to chance.”

Moore continued, “Advising now is about coaching and modeling and teaching. It’s not about just figuring out a class schedule and hoping you do well.”

Another one of the tools found to be effective in helping students close to graduation attain their degree is something called a “gap scholarship.”

“Gap scholarships” are smaller scholarships, ranging from about $350 to $1,000, designed to help students who may be one or two semesters away from graduation.

“Our whole purpose is our students. Our whole purpose is helping people get degrees, because we know economically for them, it’s vastly better to have a degree than not,”  Moore said.

Moore continued by explaining that one of the things apparent in the data was that students were getting to 100 credits, 110 credits, and 125 credits and not completing their degree. Surveys and interviews conducted by Student Success of students who did not return to school illustrated that many of them were having financial difficulty.

“Some of the most challenging ones were when students were having somewhere between a $50 amount to a couple thousand dollars – those are small amounts of money given that they’ve already completed most of your degree. If we can find a way to give them a grant and have them finish, it’s excellent for both the student and the institution,”  Moore said.

Moore also explained that UA is working to improve the first-year experience that helps students connect to the university in order to improve their overall academic performance. The program will also aim to improve the career exploration resources for students who are still early in their college experience.

According to the CEOs for Cities website, the $1 million will be used to launch a national promotional campaign for the winning city, as well as showcasing local talent development at the national level.