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OHIO takes part in Cleveland education partnership

Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland aims to increase college success

Ohio University, along with 14 other Ohio colleges and universities, has joined a partnership in an effort to raise multicultural student retention rates.

The Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland aims to streamline support from Cleveland city officials, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, colleges and universities, more than 40 organizations and the civic community in order to raise high school graduation rates, prepare students for college and help them successfully earn a college degree.

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) reaches about 44,000 students, said Corinne Webb, project manager for the Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson came up with the idea for the Compact in 2010 after he noticed the need for partnerships among programs and resources that aim to achieve better results for Cleveland students. 

He, along with CMSD administration, higher education representatives and community members, analyzed six years of CMSD data to establish specific markers for a proactive intervention plan.

"There are some kids that have the desire and the will, but they don't know how," Jackson told The Plain Dealer in an October article.

According to the Compact's website, for every 100 students that attend a Cleveland high school, 42 will receive a diploma, 23 will attend college and only seven will graduate from college within six years.

Jackson reached out to Ohio higher education institutions that have a sizeable proportion of CMSD students. Ohio University is among the top 10 Ohio institutions in terms of CMSD student enrollment, said Brian Bridges, vice provost for Diversity, Access and Equity at Ohio University.

The partnering institutions are now working together to identify the best practices across the state and for each campus, depending on the makeup and cultural norms of their student bodies.

The initiative will track the college readiness and college access of Cleveland high school students and their college persistence once enrolled at an institution. At the high school level, it will work to engrain the significance of a degree in the students through their participation in developing action plans and receiving guidance on college decisions and finances.

Webb said the measures have already begun in Cleveland with the tracking and monitoring of students. Community programs are promoting students' self-efficacy, while the district is encouraging students to take the ACT during school hours, to enroll in AP courses and offering FASFA help.

She said one of the goals is to increase the number of CMSD students enrolled in colleges from 25 percent in the 2005-06 academic year to 46 percent in the near future.

Bridges said the first CMSD class to receive the extra help assistance because of the Compact will attend college next fall. At Ohio University, once CMSD students arrive faculty academic support staff will work to ensure each takes full advantage of the resources available on campus. Vital resources include "drop out or stop out"
prevention efforts by the Office for Multicultural Student Access and Retention, as most CMSD students who enroll at OHIO are African American or Latino, Bridges said.

Bridges said the Compact is significant because "it shows how the mayor of a city understands that it truly 'takes a village to raise a child;' the partnerships with community organizations and higher education – colleges and universities – will help their students be effective … and they also have to work internally on their K-12 system to help those students be fully prepared to navigate the waters once they get to college."

For more information about the Compact, click here.