Toledo must find ways to attract talented young people, like Harvard-bound Zoe Flores, back to the city.
Zoe Flores, the Harvard University-bound Toledo Public Schools student, is a symbol of what Toledo’s best and brightest young minds are able to accomplish within the city’s educational system. But a question remains: How does Toledo get talented young people, like Ms. Flores, to either come back to Toledo or come here for the first time?
Toledo has, in recent years, struggled to attract college graduates. According to 2016 data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, only 18 percent of Toledo adults over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Compare that to the flourishing Rust Belt city of Pittsburgh, where more than 40 percent of adults at least have a bachelor’s degree.
Solving this problem will not happen overnight, nor will it happen thanks to one or two easy bureaucratic decisions. Instead, the city of Toledo, in conjunction with its most significant companies — ProMedica, Owens Corning, Owens-Illinois, and more — must craft a plan that could bring an influx of degree-wielding young adults to Toledo.
Collectively, the city and these companies must find ways to improve the city’s infrastructure, continue to develop Toledo’s downtown area into an attractive social hub, and add more high-skill, well-paying jobs.
The University of Toledo must do its part as well. “Eds and meds” have helped steer many post-industrial cities onto a promising course. ProMedica has offered the meds, but the University of Toledo must work to push itself into the next strata of higher education. This can start in little ways.
The University of Pittsburgh, considered by some to be a “public Ivy,” has a graduation rate of 81 percent. The University of Toledo, on the other hand, graduates 44.5 percent of its students each year. This is unacceptable. The university’s 2016 “completion plan” was a step toward remedying this issue, but it should not prevent administrators from seeking out other ways to improve its graduation rate.
This is all much easier said than done, of course. But ProMedica has already been leading the way on revitalizing the downtown area. Imagine how much more could be accomplished with the Toledo city government working in tandem with ProMedica, the city’s other major companies, and a major university.
Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz has already shown enthusiasm and vigor for pursuing opportunities for Toledo to attract young, talented professionals. That enthusiasm is welcome and needed. But if Toledo wishes for quality young people like Ms. Flores to look here for work, there is much work to be done.
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