By Denise Dick
City high school students have the opportunity to get help paying for college through a new $3 million Youngstown Foundation program.
YSTAR provides “last-dollar scholarships” for city high school students who want to attend either Youngstown State University or Eastern Gateway Community College.
Last-dollar scholarships can be used for expenses such as tuition, mandatory fees, parking and books. These “last dollars” can often be the determining factor as to whether a city student attends college or not, according to the foundation.
Janice Strasfeld, foundation executive director, said it’s easy for students to apply.
“It’s a very simple form,” she said. “It’s available to every single freshman student in the city schools. They just have to sign their name and express the reasons why they want to go on for post-secondary education.”
Last week was spring break so school officials weren’t available to say how many students have signed up for the program. At a Youngstown Schools Academic Distress Commission meeting last month, though, Doug Hiscox, deputy superintendent for academic affairs, said the program has been well-received by students, and the district awaits signatures from many parents.
School guidance counselors are informing students about the program, Hiscox said last month.
The commission listed YSTAR as a community partnership within the school district that benefits students.
The class of 2016, or this year’s freshmen, are the first students eligible to realize the full benefit of the program. This year’s sophomores and juniors also are eligible.
Students must meet all graduation requirements within four years and maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average. They have to complete two consecutive years in the city school system, including senior year .
The goals of the program are increasing high-school graduation rates, increasing local college application and admission rates, increasing skilled workers in the region, encouraging families to value education, attracting more companies to the area that value a skilled workforce, reducing high-school exit rates and raising student achievement.
Students are eligible to receive $1,000 toward their college education for each year they complete in the city school system, up to $3,000. They must also graduate from the district.
The Youngstown Foundation’s initial commitment is $3 million.
“The message is, we care about the kids,” Strasfeld said. “We want to make sure they have the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education and for economic development, we want to have trained workers for all of the jobs that are coming in.”