Competing against 57 other cities across the nation, the Akron metropolitan area has won the top prize in the Talent Dividend competition, producing an impressive 20 percent increase in college degree holders between 2009 and 2013, the largest increase among the competing regions.  

Accepting the $1 million Talent Dividend prize were UA President Scott L. Scarborough and fellow presidents from Kent State, Hiram College, NEOMED and Stark State, along with leadership of NOCHE (the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education). The prize will be shared among all NOCHE members.

Presidents at Talent Dividend announcement

In Washington, D.C., for the Talent Dividend prize announcement are, from left, Jay Alan Gershen, president of the Northeast Ohio Medical University; Para Jones, president of Stark State College; Beverly Warren, president of Kent State University; Lori Varlotta, president of Hiram College; and Scott Scarborough, president of The University of Akron.

The Talent Dividend competition was sponsored by CEOs for Cities to encourage collaboration among universities and civic organizations to create programs that help students attain post-secondary degrees. The grand prize was funded by the Kresge and Lumina Foundations. 

“Winning this award is proof that colleges and universities in Northeast Ohio are the best in the country at getting students to the finish line with a college degree.  When this happens, the economic future of the entire region is much brighter,” says Scarborough. “This award is a tribute to our faculty and staff who are committed to both student success and regional economic development."



The driving force behind the Talent Dividend competition is the belief that a region’s economic success, as measured by per capita income, is dependent upon how much of the population has a college degree.

According to CEOs for Cities President Lee Fisher, “Each one percentage point increase in degree attainment in Northeast Ohio has a positive $2.8 billion increase in the per capita income for the region. That’s the Talent Dividend for Northeast Ohio.”  Fisher adds that for every additional person who obtains a college degree or above, he or she will earn, on average, a dividend of an additional $974 each year in income.

UA Provost Mike Sherman says collaboration among the region’s universities, civic organizations and foundations, and the hard work of UA faculty, staff  and students led to the winning performance. “As a region, we’ve become more accountable to the students, more accountable to ourselves, and more accountable to the state of Ohio.”

During the competition period—measuring degree attainment by students between 2009-10 and 2012-13—UA students earned 4,387 bachelor’s degrees (an increase of 15 percent) and 651 associate degrees (an increase of 73 percent). These increases contributed to an overall 10.3 percent increase in college degree holders among all NOCHE partners during that period and a 20 percent increase in the Akron metropolitan area alone.

At UA, how was such success achieved? Sherman cites a diversity of programs including gap and student success scholarships to help students who need small amounts of funding to finish their final semester; pathway programs to increase the likelihood of course completion and reduce student debt; dual enrollment programs with community colleges; success coaching and enhanced advising programs; summer bridge and STEMM scholars programs to encourage first generation college students and others.

“Winning the grand prize is a tribute to the student success culture we’ve built and sustained at the University of Akron,” says Candace Campbell Jackson, Vice President for Student Success. “We’ve learned which programs are most effective in helping our students attain degrees, which programs to build to scale to help more students.  This prize signals to us and other great public research universities that serve diverse student populations in urban settings that we are on the right track, that you can be both access-based and excellent as measured by our students’ success.”

“Together with Kent State, Hiram College, Stark State, and NEOMED—our academic partners in the Akron metropolitan area—we have demonstrated that our students’ success is our region’s success,” says Sherman. “The Talent Dividend awards celebrates a collaboration that has boosted the number of people living in our community with advanced degrees, contributing to a more innovative, productive, and stronger regional economy.”

Media contact: Eileen Korey, 330-972-8589 or 

SUCCESS STORY: Lydia Ducksworth

Lydia Ducksworth


The gap scholarship of $885 that Lydia Ducksworth received during her last semester at UA made that last semester possible.

“It was definitely a blessing,” says the Akron resident, who earned a B.S. in Respiratory Therapy Technology in May 2014. “With two small children, I had financial responsibilities outside of funding my education. I would not have been able to finish school without it.”

Ducksworth also was a Choose Ohio First STEM Scholar. The program provides scholarships and services to encourage more students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

She’s now a respiratory therapist at Summa Akron City Hospital. “I love my job,” says Ducksworth. “I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people, and from the positive feedback I get from co-workers, patients and their families.”


Treviel Cody

Treviel Cody was close to graduating when his financial aid ran out. UA provided a gap scholarship, allowing him to continue. He earned his degree, and today he owns a theater company in Akron. Gap scholarships are one approach taken by Akron-area colleges and universities to increase degree attainment.

“I was so close to graduating but running out of financial aid,” says Cody. That’s when he learned about special small scholarships provided by UA to help students clear debt and finish their classes.

“I am grateful to the Theatre Department, Professor Neil Sapienza, and the entire Adult Focus program for helping me,” says Cody. “The biggest lesson for any university student to learn is to prepare yourself for the grind ahead—an entrepreneurial path is going to be fun, but hard.”