Aaron Oakes, the principal at Tecumseh High School, talks about some upgrades that will be made to the school’s IT lab with the new partnership with the University of Cincinnati’s School of Information Technology and their Early College Program. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Clark County works to help students avoid student loans

Clark County is working to do their part to help high school seniors afford college as student loan debt continues to climb nationwide.

The average student in the United States has an average student loan amount of $37, 172, with an average monthly payment of $393. In 2019, there are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe over $1.5 trillion in student loan debit in United States alone, according to Forbes magazine.

“It’s definetly a problem,” said Amy Donahoe, director of workforce development at the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

Student loans have long been an issue in Ohio. In August of 2017, WalletHub, a personal finance website which releases yearly reports on cities and states with the most and least student debt, ranked Ohio as the worst state in the country for student loan debt.

The average debt of a borrower in the state of Ohio in 2018 was $29,723 with 64% of college graduates leaving school with some sort of debt, according to the online student loan tracker LendEDU.

For some students, the thought of debt is enough to scare them away from any college or university. However, students interested in pursuing higher education do have options.

Early College Program

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Tecumseh High School agreed to enter into a partnership with the University of Cincinnati’s School of Information Technology Early College Program last month.

Under the partnership, students who complete nine courses with a grade of at least a C, will receive automatic acceptance into the University of Cincinnati, where they can enter as a sophomore.

“Students will also be eligible for a paid internship the summer before they go into school,” said Aaron Oakes, principal at Tecumseh High School. “The university would help to place the students in the internship and they can earn upwards of $30,000.”

Oakes said one of the best things about the partnership is the low cost for both students and the district- which is free.

“One of the biggest selling points of this program is that basically we are making college cheaper by giving them one year of college for free,” Oakes said. “Then, with the internship, that money can be used to pay for future college expenses.”

The only cost to start-up the program is $7,500 in training courses for one of Tecumseh High School’s teachers, which Oakes said she has received a full scholarship for from the university.

“She’s in training right now and will be ready to go by the second semester of the 2019-2020 school year,” Oakes said.

Tecumseh High School is the 24th school across the state of Ohio to enter into Cincinnati’s Early College Program.

“We are very excited to offer the Early IT College Program to students in Tecumseh,” said Hazem Said, Director of the University of Cincinnati’s School of Information Technology. “We have seem this program really transform the life of a student.”

Said said the program allows students to focus on building their skills from a young age.

“It’s great for everyone involved. It helps the student and it helps make our region more talented,” Said said. “Instead of seeing 10 or 20 students graduating with an IT degree, now we can see 200.”

The influx of talent is why Said said the university is so passionate about expanding the program into communities like Clark County.

“We are in a talent economy,” Said said. “Seeing all these talented students graduating with these degrees and low debt, it excites employers. It should excite everyone.”

College Credit Plus

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The partnership is just one of the ways that Clark County students can get at least part of their college education for free. Another is through Clark State Community College’s Ohio College Credit Plus program.

This year, a record number of Clark County high school graduates also received two-year college degrees from Clark State Community College.

The 19 students received their associate degrees through Clark State’s Ohio College Credit Plus program.

“College Credit Plus students are determined, driven and hardworking,” said Jo Alice Blondin, president of Clark State.

In the spring 2019 semester alone, more than 2,427 high school students were enrolled at Clark State and taking 13,378 credit hours, according to data provided by Clark State.

Springfield’s Global Impact STEM Academy topped the list of high school enrollees, with 558 students taking 1,827 credit hours at Clark State.

Jamison Truebenbach, chief academic officer at Global Impact STEM Academy, said she could not be more pleased with the success of her students.

“College Credit Plus has benefited over 500 Global Impact students this year alone,” Truebenbach said. “Students have had the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of teaching styles and an array of content that will prepare them for their future endeavors.”

Introduced in Ohio in 2014, the state-funded CCP program allows students to earn college credit while in grades 7 through 12, at no cost. the program also covers funding for tuition, books and other fees.

Students can enroll in courses through Clark State and receive credit for their high school requirements and for college credit. Credits can then be transferred to any college or university in the state of Ohio after the student graduates high school.

Since it’s inception, students have earned over $11 million in college credit at Clark State.

If students are interested in enrolling in either of the programs, they are encouraged to talk with their guidance counselors.

“It’s great because it shows that they are not seeking out just valedictorian students,” Oakes said. “They are just seeking out students who are interested in a college education, who might not have had the chance to get on before.”

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