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The University of Toledo is packing up a bus and heading out early today to help get more Cleveland students enrolled at the school.
UT admissions staff, financial aid officials, and college recruiters will make the two-hour trip to John Hay High School in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to tell students about an opportunity to attend college for free.
They were invited by the school district as part of its "Cleveland Goes to College" initiative to increase the number of graduates who pursue higher education.
"A university is coming to us and saying you are important to us and we want you in our school - that sends an entirely different message to our kids," said Eric Gordon, chief academic officer of the Cleveland school district.
Cleveland is one of Ohio's six urban areas extended an invitation to attend UT for free through the UT Guarantee scholarship program, which closes the gap between what is provided through financial aid and the total cost of tuition.
Graduates from Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo public schools are eligible for the program if they have at least a 3.0 GPA and show some financial need by qualifying for a Pell Grant when filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA.
Even if a student only gets a couple hundred dollars in federal need-based aid, UT will pick up the balance to meet the $7,927 bill for a school year's tuition and fees.
"We have offered the original guarantee to six communities, Cleveland being one of them, and they have really embraced this program," said Larry Burns, UT vice president for external affairs.
Mr. Gordon said like many urban districts, Cleveland doesn't have a high percentage of students going to college and a large reason for that is financial.
"Just like any urban district, we have a very low college admittance and, more than that, [staying in] college, which is the real quality measure, is exceedingly low," he said. "Often they don't think college is an opportunity for them, so they don't take advantage of it."
But more than 400 students are expected at the event today to hear about the chance that could make college a reality.
"We're going to try to admit on the spot these 400 young men and women to the university and actually have [UT President Lloyd Jacobs] at the end of the day welcome them via teleconference," Mr. Burns said.
Whether they decide to go to UT remains to be seen, but getting the satisfaction of knowing they could if they wanted to will be an important first step, Mr. Gordon said.
"Our strategy is we can ensure that they apply, ensure they fill out financial aid, and ensure they seek scholarships," he said. "The only thing we can't actually do is make sure they attend."
To become a Rocket for next school year, the students will need to apply for admission by Jan. 5 and file the FAFSA by April 1.
If they qualify for the UT Guarantee, they can keep that scholarship all four years of school as long as the recipients maintain a 3.0 GPA and complete 30 credit hours each school year.
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