Increase in KSU degrees leads to regional award


(From left) Jay Gershen, Para Jones, Beverly Warren, Lori Varlotta and Scott Scarborough. Photo courtesy of Kent State University.

Hanna Moore

The Akron Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes colleges and universities in Summit and Portage Counties, received a $1 million prize from CEO for Cities’ Talent Dividend Prize competition Wednesday.

Kent State President Beverly Warren, Northeast Ohio Medical University President Jay Gershen, Stark State College President Para Jones, Hiram College President Lori Varlotta and University of Akron President Scott Scarborough gathered in Washington D.C. for the prize announcement.

“We are very, very excited to be the chosen area that won this talent dividend prize,” Warren said. “It’s a four-year work in progress, and as a new president I want to make sure I thank all of the prior presidents who launched this initiative and the faculty, staff and students who have been really working towards a student success endeavor over the last four years.”

The Talent Dividend Prize is “awarded to the city that exhibits the greatest increase in the number of post secondary degrees granted per one thousand population over a four-year period,” according to the CEOs for Cities’ website.

The Akron MSA was one of 57 other metropolitan areas competing for the $1 million prize, which will go toward a national promotional campaign “to showcase local talent development at the national level,” according to the CEOs for Cities’ website.

Kent State had the largest increase in the number of new graduates among colleges and universities in the MSA, including Hiram College, NEOMED, Stark State College and the University of Akron, according to a press release from Kent State.

“I do think this has been a partnership effort,” Warren said. “I am so pleased that Kent State has seen remarkable progress, not only in the number of students choosing Kent State to pursue their post-secondary education, but the fact that we have retained more of those students toward completion.”

The Akron MSA awarded 2,139 more post-secondary degrees than four years ago, an increase of 20 percent, CEOs for Cities said in a press release from Kent State.

Kent State is responsible for 58 percent of the total increase in degrees in the Akron MSA and 62 percent of the point increase in degrees awarded.

Colleges and universities received one point for every associate degree and two points for every bachelor’s or advanced degree.

“I think what I see as a real evidence of change is a culture of student success,” Warren said. “I think, at our institutions, we are more focused on trying to support students to get to the finish line to achieve a degree, and I see that every day at Kent State University in terms of the faculty and students who work hand in hand together to make sure that our students not only enroll but they graduate.”

Kent State will receive $143,750 of the $1 million prize money and plans to invest it in programs focused on college completion, according to the press release.

“Ultimately, what this means is that more students in our region are going to get a shot at a better life, and everyone who lives in this region is going to get a shot at a better economy, and you can’t tell a better story than that,” Scarborough said.

Contact Hanna Moore at [email protected].