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U Akron links students to internships
In hopes of increasing graduation rates and sucessful degrees

Mark Urycki
University of Akron Board of Trustees meeting
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In The Region:
Governor Kasich says he wants to tie the amount of state money that state universities receive to their graduation rates.  One area school is focusing its efforts to meet those demands, partly through internships.   WKSU’s Mark Urycki has details
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The Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents Jim Petro says the state’s economic health is tied to the number of college graduates.  His Complete Ohio College Task Force is made up of state and university officials –and private college leaders- with the task for helping students get their degrees.  Petro says only 26% of Ohioans have a bachelor’s degree, 5% below the national average.  

One member of the task force is the Provost at the University of Akron, Mike Sherman.  He says the college needs to look at the entire pipeline, starting with kids as they enter Ohio schools.

“We can’t be in  a position of complaining about the students who are presented to us.   We need to be a partner with the P-12 system  not only enhance the ability of teachers to teach but also to understand and help create the environment where students learn.”

Sherman says out of every 100 Ohio 9th graders only 46 will enter college and less than half of those will graduate.   U Akron’s graduation rate is about 40% but he wants to get that up to 60%..  While remedial courses are still a common answer to keeping freshmen in college,  Akron also wants to offer a carrot at the end of the degree, an internship or work study program with a company.

“We’re going to increase our attentiveness to getting students into internships that link to their degrees that then would link to their job placement.”

Internships through Akron’s engineering programs are well established but school officials see benefits from expanding that to all degrees.  University President Luis Proenza.

“This is a network of hundreds and hundreds of companies that we routinely stay in touch with and place students with depending on their field of emphasis.  We’ve  been enhancing that in every other field, in business and nursing and so on.  It creates that linkage with potential employees.” 

One Akron student who took got a shot of some real world experience in the Spring semester was Ryan Thompson.   A scholarship through the Bliss Institute of Applied politics sent him to Columbus to work with the Ohio House Republican Organization Committee and even partly with the Mitt Romney campaign. The political science major said the experience helped him learn what he did not want to do…

 “I actually found out through my internship  that campaigning necessarily wasn’t something that I was interested in so it helped me direct my career path and made me realize that maybe campaigning is not somewhere I want to go but definitely research is something I was very interested in.”

Thompson said he likely would not have even had time to make the connections and find internships without the school’s help. 

School officials say increasing graduation rates is all about the a pipeline. On one end they will partner with local schools to work on literacy programs for 3rd graders.  But at the other end, the University of Akron goal is to have 80% of its students get a job within 6 months of graduation.  

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