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Published: Wednesday, 1/9/2013

Ex-coach's bus used in drive for higher education

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It's John Madden meets higher education.

A bus once used by the pro-football broadcaster will be at the center of a $500,000 campaign to get more Ohio high school students to college.

Dubbed the “Ohio Success Express,” the bus will take the message that higher learning leads to higher earning to thousands of students during 25 stops over the next six months.

Organizers with the Ohio Board of Regents said they anticipate two visits to northwest Ohio, though dates and places have not been scheduled.

Governor Taft will help begin the campaign tomorrow at a Columbus high school.

With only 17 percent of the state's population holding a bachelor's degree, state officials have characterized Ohio as having an education deficit that the campaign hopes to combat.

“People in many cases believe if you get some high school and you work hard, you'll succeed,” said Michael Brown, a spokesman for the regents. “That world's over.”

Families in which the head of the household has a bachelor's degree make an average of $37,000 more annually than those possessing only a high school diploma, he said.

“We want people to set their sights a little bit higher,” added Tom Noe, a regent from Monclova Township.

The campaign will target juniors and perhaps sophomores in high schools that have low numbers of graduates who go on to college, Mr. Brown said.

Typical visits will involve a rally featuring a video and state and local leaders talking about financial aid and the importance of college. Students will break into small groups to meet with representatives from local colleges - public and private institutions offering two-year and four-year degrees.

Visits will conclude with community leaders being invited to discuss the issue, Mr. Brown said.

At the center of all the activity will be the bus.

“The bus is really cool,” Mr. Brown said. “It's sort of a little conference room on wheels.”

The vehicle in which Mr. Madden traveled to NFL games - he wouldn't fly to them - is being leased for $80,000. It was refitted with six laptop computers and two workstations and covered with colorful paintings on its exterior, Mr. Brown said.

Dick Eastop, interim vice president of enrollment and placement services at the University of Toledo, said efforts such as the “Success Express” can only help.

“I'm not sure about how much of an impact it would have, but I am sure that anything we can do to help change the abysmal college-going rate of this state is worth trying,” he said.


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