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Retention, Graduation Efforts of Akron Area Pays Dividends

WASHINGTON ― The Akron metropolitan area of Northeast Ohio won a $1 million prize for success in helping students stay in college and graduate. Northeast Ohio beat out 56 other regions across the country competing for the Talent Dividend Prize.

The money will be shared among members of the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (NOCHE).

To win the $1 million, Northeast Ohio showed the greatest increase in college degrees from 2009-10 to 2012-13. The Akron region had a 20 percent increase in postsecondary degrees during that time period, producing 2,139 additional degrees.

The Talent Dividend Prize is an initiative of the nonprofit group, CEOs for Cities. Northeast Ohio was announced as the winner on Wednesday afternoon at the Institute for Peace.

While the grand prize went to Northeast Ohio, the contest helped highlight the efforts of cities across the nation.

The 57 metropolitan areas who were invited to compete for the prize were encouraged to think about the unique educational needs of their area.

“Each of those cities had to form a cross-sector network of people, so that could be business, higher education, mayor’s offices, the philanthropy world, community foundations, economic development boards and workforce boards. Some cities included their faith-based community. They really came at the whole challenge in different ways,” said Dr. Noel Harmon, national director of Talent Dividend and associate director of the Global Cities Initiative at the Brookings Institution.

Five smaller prizes were awarded to the cities of Louisville; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Los Angeles; Orlando/Kissimmee, Florida; and Portland, Oregon.

Orlando/Kissimmee led the way with the greatest increase in the share of Latino, African-American and multiracial students obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

“Making sure that we pay attention to equity in terms of these outcomes, as well as the demographic changes that are sweeping across this country, will be very important as we think about college attainment,” said Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP).

Cooper said that between 2009-10 and 2012-13, Orlando/Kissimmee increased the number of minority students graduating college with bachelor’s degrees from 22 percent to 28 percent.

Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana saw the greatest increase in Latino, African-American and multiracial students obtaining an associate degree.

“In three years, the national increase in associate degree attainment for these students has been about 4 percent. In Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Ana, it’s 10 percent,” said Deborah A. Santiago, COO and vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education.

Catherine Morris can be reached at [email protected].

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