By Andrea Cordle
The city is investing in its future.
At the July 6 meeting, Grove City Council adopted a higher education investment program with a 3-2 vote.
According to council president Ted Berry, the goal of the program is to transform higher education opportunities in the city and keep college-educated students at home after graduating. He believes this initiative would attract young professionals to the city and strengthen the local workforce.
The program would make scholarships available to Grove City students.
“If Grove City does not become more aggressive, it will sit idle,” said Berry.
The legislation appropriates $350,000 for the higher education investment program. Out of this funding, $250,000 would be allocated to the Grove City Promise Scholarship Program and $100,000 would go toward the Higher Education Facilities Fund.
According to the city ordinance, the promise scholarship is a loan of up to $1,000 per semester or $3,000 a year to a maximum of $12,000 for each student residing in Grove City who attends an accredited higher education program within the city. The loans could be used for all levels of education.
The requirement is that students must live in Grove City for three years after graduating. The student would also be required to perform three volunteer hours to Keep Grove City Beautiful or the VIP Program each semester. The recipient must also maintain a “C” average.
The $100,000 facilities fund is designed to provide a way for higher education establishments to lease space in the city.
According to Berry, Cleveland has a similar program in place and that city has had growth in its young adult population.
Several people attended the meeting to show support for the legislation.
David Harrison, president of Columbus State Community College, said this approach is unique in providing initiative for students.
“This is a bold vision,” said Harrison. “Columbus State stands ready to help in any way we can.”
Hugh Garside, treasurer for the South-Western City Schools District said this program would help the local students in the area succeed. He said it would compliment programs already in place in the school district and would make higher education more affordable for young people.
Nick Amicucci, a graduate of Grove City High School and firefighter with the Jackson Township Division of Fire, said paying for college is a large source of stress for local families. He said he knows many people with “back-breaking” student loan debt.
“Grove City can be on the leading edge of the sword in making college education affordable,” said Amicucci.
While many were in favor of the program, two council members voted against the ordinance.
Laura Lanese said council is spending a lot of public money with no proof of return. She said there is no way to know if this program would keep young professionals in the city and no way to know if it would attract business owners.
“I see this money better spent on other projects,” said the councilwoman.
Councilman Jeff Davis was concerned about the city entering the debt collection business. He said the ordinance did not offer specific language addressing the structure of the loans or the collection of the loans. He suggested changing the $250,000 amount to $100,000 to limit the initial liability.
“We owe it to the taxpayers,” said Davis. “Should local taxpayers fund scholarships?”
The remaining council members, Berry, Steve Bennett and Maria Klemack-McGraw, voted in favor of the program.
The scholarship program would be administered by a committee. The Grove City Higher Education Investment Committee will include a representative of South-Western City Schools, the city finance director, a citizen mayoral appointment and a member of the local chamber of commerce.
The committee would set the criteria and structure for the scholarships on an annual basis.
All recommendations from the committee would be reviewed and voted on by council.