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The Need for Postsecondary Attainment in North Central Ohio

February 24, 2010 by Joshua Wright

The following article is from North Central State College President Donald L. Plotts. Data for the piece were compiled by Tom Prendergast, NCSC’s director of institutional research and grants. The article follows this EMSI data spotlight on earnings by education levels.

It’s no secret that education correlates to income levels, but the statistics are so stark in North Central Ohio that they bear review. Our region is grossly undereducated when compared with Ohio, which itself is undereducated when compared with the nation. Census data show only 39% of our 25-and-over population has at least some college experience, compared to 51% for the state and 55% for the nation. This directly impacts our average income, which significantly trails the state and nation.

Yet decent paying jobs are still available in our region for those with postsecondary education, in part due to turnover from the aging workforce. The key is up-skilling our population to fill these positions, reaching out to both the youth and adult populations.

Educational Attainment and Income: Ashland, Richland, and Crawford Counties, Ohio

Not enough youth aspire to postsecondary education in our region. According to data from the Ohio Board of Regents, only 44% of regional graduating public high school seniors in 2007 enrolled in a Ohio college the following fall — the lowest enrollment level since 2002. In a survey of approximately 800 regional high school seniors last spring, while 80% agreed that postsecondary education was their best choice after high school, 57% responded they had not contacted any postsecondary institutions. Only half had taken the ACT college placement test, including many with high GPAs.

2010-11 Projections and Income by Ed Level — Ashland, Richland, and Crawford Counties

Our community is responding to this crisis through a regional P-16 council of business, education and philanthropic representatives with a primary goal to improve the flow of high school graduates into postsecondary education or training (http://sparcp16.org/). For the second straight year, it has obtained funding to provide pre-ACT assessments to every 8th and 10th grader in region. With coordinated follow-up by school officials, these assessments have challenged youth to carefully consider their postsecondary aspirations and rigor of their high school course planning while they still have time. Likewise, SPARC (Succeed and Prosper through Education in Ashland, Richland, and Crawford counties) has spawned an active mentoring program in Crawford County and now placed dedicated college access advisors within Ashland County high schools.

Likewise, area high schools and colleges have collaborated to expand early college learning options to high school youth. Despite the loss of start-up state/federal funding, these programs continue to grow and thrive through innovative cost-share and scholarship agreements. We encourage parents to press their children toward early college experience, as some student surveys have shown this early taste inspires them to continue beyond high school.

Yet we must continue to reach out to adults, and several community partnerships are expanding access, such as:

  • Hourly Richland County Transit service to the Ohio State Mansfield/NC State campus.
  • A life skills program for cash public assistance recipients in Richland County — of which more than 50 have now enrolled in postsecondary education given the exposure to the campus climate.
  • A career counseling office at Ohio State/NC State advising dislocated workers. Established as a branch of the regional One-Stop, it offers an array of tools to help direct transitioning workers toward a new career path.
  • Agreements with area adult career centers allowing students to transfer technical training toward a degree.
  • A variety of on-campus or near-campus bachelor degree completion programs. NC State is especially excited about its growing transfer relationships with Ohio State Mansfield and Ashland University.

We finally encourage the adult community to contact a local college to career center to investigate the convenient, flexible learning options available to them – regardless of your past. It is never too late to start over!

For more information, Tom Prendergast may be reached at tprendergast@ncstatecollege.edu. More on Prendergast’s work and the economic difficulties facing North Central Ohio can be found in this case study.

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