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Published: Thursday, 10/22/2009

UT scholarship plan aimed at 8th graders

BY MEGHAN
GILBERT-CUNNINGHAM
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The University of Toledo wants to give successful high school students $10,000 to go to college there.

The new Scholarly Savings Account program will encourage eighth graders to start thinking about college now and then will give them $2,000 a year as they work toward that goal, said Larry Burns, UT's vice president for external affairs.

"It allows students and family to realize the university dream can be a reality if they work hard," Mr. Burns said.

The program is to be announced officially at 3 p.m. Thursday in the Memorial Fieldhouse on UT's main campus.

An initial deposit of $2,000 for completing eighth grade and subsequent $2,000 deposits after each successful year of high school would create a maximum of $10,000 in the savings account, said Kevin Kucera, associate vice president for enrollment services at UT.

Requirements that a student must meet each year to earn the $2,000 will be left to the individual school districts.

Mr. Kucera said UT wanted to give the districts flexibility to include academics, attendance, behavior, or other factors.

The only UT criterion is that the student graduates with a 3.0 grade point average and meets the core curriculum requirements for admission to the university.

For students to be eligible, their districts or schools must sign a participation agreement with UT that includes its requirements and tracking process.

John Foley, superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, said he long has believed that reaching out to students at younger ages will help encourage them to be successful in school.

"If we start that conversation early, college becomes a possibility and a real possibility," he said.

"If you start your senior year thinking about what you'll do next year, in some cases, it's too late."

He said planning for college can influence the courses students take, such as encouraging them to pursue advanced science and math or a foreign language.

"It will give them opportunity at any college because they are on the right path to get there," he said.

Although a student must attend UT to cash in a Scholarly Savings Account, Mr. Kucera said choosing another school wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

"If a student goes through this program in high school and elects to pick another college, that's fine too, because now they are better prepared for any college," he said.

Unlike UT's other recent scholarship program, the UT Guarantee, that offered free tuition for select public school districts in the state, this program is open to any school anywhere.

The savings program also does not require students to show financial need, in contrast to the UT Guarantee, which required that the student be eligible for a federal Pell grant.

"The UT Guarantee program is helping us reach those urban communities, but we have always felt the parochial schools and suburban schools are important," Mr. Burns said.

"This was a broader, stronger message to everyone that college can be a reality to them."

Ray Maj, college counselor and head of the guidance department at St. Francis de Sales High School, said he is glad UT opened this program to more schools.

"I think we're all in this for the passion and interest of our students," he said.

The Scholarly Savings Account will help families in this down economy and will encourage students to do their best, Mr. Maj said.

"It creates a goal-oriented focus for them so they can realize their dreams," he said.

"Sometimes when they come to high school, they don't think about going to college right away."

The money for this program is in the university's scholarship budget, Mr. Kucera said, and is a reasonable amount of aid to offer to qualified students.

Students have to maintain a 3.0 grade-point average and attend UT full time to get the money, which will be divided and paid out over four years.

Additional students attending UT through this program and the tuition and state subsidy dollars they bring in will help make the program work, Mr. Kucera said.

The first deposits will be made in June for eighth graders who successfully complete this school year.

Contact Meghan

Gilbert-Cunningham at:

mcunningham@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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