New program to enroll, engage and employ

Rachel Abbey

Rather than the three R’s, Northeast Ohio has been focusing on the three E’s lately – enroll, engage and employ.

The leaders of the College 360° program hope to bring and keep more college-educated students in the region with these steps.

“It’s designed to stop the brain-drain,” said Kimberly Thompson, Kent State’s student representative to the program.

This is the first year for College 360°, said Jeff Parsons, overall projects associate and director of the engage base. Research and planning began about two years ago at the suggestion of the Council on Competitiveness, which identified the loss of students as a problem for the region.

The Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education partnered with Collegia, a firm that creates these types of regional collaborations in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, to work on the College 360° initiative.

The program is trying to bring students to Northeast Ohio, involve them in the region while they’re still in school and keep them here after they graduate, Parsons said. Once students start to care about the region and make business contacts, they are more likely to work here after graduation.

This is the “engage” part of the program. College 360ø’s Web site has a calendar of events across the region – the first of its kind aimed at people ages 18 to 24, Parsons said.

College 360° also plans discounted entertainment for students with local businesses, Thompson said. Thompson is part of Team 360°, a “think tank” of student representatives from all 15 participating universities. They try to tell the program what students actually want from the region.

This year’s big event was September’s Full Circle Festival at a Cleveland Indians game, Thompson said. The program wants to make the festival an annual event. The organization hopes to feature a musical act next fall, she said, and the representatives are discussing the possibilities of making the event travel from school to school rather than staying at one central location.

“Since the initiative is so new, we’re still figuring out how students will react to it, and what students want to do,” Thompson said. “It really needs teeth. I don’t think enough students are even aware of it on any campus.”

The program needs to make students more aware of the available internships and the entertainment discounts in the area, Thompson said. The Web site, college360.org, has links to this information, but the program could do more to spread information through schools.

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected]