Fingerhut promised to
increase access to a college education in the Valley.
By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN — The Regional Chamber has recognized high-achieving local school districts and the role they play in stimulating the local economy, the last four years with its “From Steel to Scholars” recognition luncheon.
Since the program’s inception, standardized test scores have been steadily climbing in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. Chamber figures show that just two years ago, Mahoning Valley schools lagged behind that state average with 62 percent of its districts its earning “excellent” and “effective” ratings.
Now, 82 percent of local districts have reached at least an effective ranking, a 2 percent increase over the state average.
Eleven local school districts that earned the highest designation on state report cards — excellent — were honored in a ceremony Wednesday at Antone’s Banquet Centre.
“I really want to take my hat off to you,” said Thomas M. Humphries, the chamber’s president and CEO to local administrators. “We have come a long way.”
In that time, the number of local students enrolling at Youngstown State University has been steadily increasing as well, the chamber reports. The percentage of Valley high school graduates who register there has grown from 18.83 percent in 2002 to 21.31 percent today.
Furthering that trend was the subject of a speech from keynote speaker, Eric D. Fingerhut, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. He congratulated the school districts for preparing students for higher education.
“We need people to go to college and be successful in college,” Fingerhut said. “For that to work, we need excellence in primary and secondary education.”
Fingerhut said Gov. Ted Strickland is committed to increasing access to higher education as an economic tool in the Valley and elsewhere in the state.
State lawmakers honored that commitment in their most recent budget process, Fingerhut said, increasing aid to public universities that effectively halted tuition increases.
The chancellor said he and the governor plan to extend that promise further by assisting with the creation of a community college in the Valley.
“Gov. Strickland and I are committed to making a college education affordable in places where the economy cries out for the transforming powers of higher education,” he said. “I count these three counties in that. We cannot and will not fail to build a system of Ohio colleges that will drive the Mahoning Valley’s economic turnaround.”
Fingerhut said that, like many local students, he was the first in his family to attend college.
“I would not be standing here, as chancellor of the board of regents, without a college degree,” Fingerhut said. “And I didn’t do it by myself. It was a team effort, just like here in the Mahoning Valley.”