Erica Cantrell’s mother died of cancer last year. Her father is losing his job at a small religious middle school that is closing.
Those hardships won’t keep Cantrell from college.
She is one of 47 Akron Public School graduates who will receive the University of Akron’s first Innovation Generation Scholarships this fall.
UA is awarding the full-tuition scholarships to high-achieving Akron students in exchange for the district’s oldest high school building.
The district largely had mothballed Central-Hower High School due to enrollment declines. UA has long coveted the building because of its location on the north edge of campus.
UA will use the building as swing space while it remodels Zook Hall and the law school. In turn, high-achieving Akron students will find themselves in a select group.
The new scholarships will pay all of their tuition — a $10,000 yearly benefit — for the next four years. Very few of UA’s other scholarships are as generous.
Although the university so far has committed $5.6 million in awards to freshmen for this fall, most are for $1,000 to $6,000, UA financial aid director Michelle Ellis said.
UA is committing $48.7 million to scholarships and grants at all levels, 5.5 percent more than the previous year, the university said.
Innovation Generation awards are available to any Akron school student who’s been in the district for four years and meets academic qualifications: a 3.0 grade-point average and 27 ACT score, or who are in the top 10 percent of their class and have a 26 ACT or who recorded a 3.5 GPA and a 24 ACT.
This year, about 60 of almost 1,300 Akron Public School graduates met the UA scholarship criteria. Of those eligible, 13 turned it down.
Cantrell is among those who took advantage of it.
Her good grades at North High also earned her other scholarships, so she will be able to live in campus housing with all but $1,400 of her costs paid.
She considered a handful of other universities, but chose UA in part because of the scholarships and in part because she had direct experience there, she said.
As a high school freshman, she lived in a UA residence hall for a week while she attended a program on women in engineering. The program was so inspiring that it propelled her toward her major: electrical engineering.
“Mostly I want to do it because I like math,” she said.
If Cantrell and the other Innovation Generation Scholarship recipients keep their grades at 3.0, they will be eligible to renew their awards for up to four years.
The scholarships will last until $13.5 million is used up.
At the current tuition rate of about $10,000 a year and if about 47 students yearly accept the awards, the program would fund scholarships for more than 300 students through fall 2019.
However, the amount of the Innovation Generation awards will be reduced by other grants and scholarships that recipients receive, so likely will last longer.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.