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Cleveland Scholarship Programs: Making college affordable

By Arooj Ashraf, LaPrensa Correspondent

Students in need of financial assistance have an ally in the Cleveland Scholarship Programs, which serves 11 counties in Northeast Ohio, providing an average of $3 million in scholarships annually.

Victor Ruiz, Assistant Vice President, Advisory Services, at CSP, said the organization has been upholding its mission to increase college enrollment for 40 years. “Many organizations have been modeled after us around the country,” said Ruiz.

Last year, the organization awarded $2.7 million in scholarships to 2,156 students, 40 percent of whom were minorities. “Out of 1310 scholarships awarded 815 went to African-Americans, 89 to Latinos, 61 to Asian-Americans, and 17 to students who identified themselves as multicultural,” said Ruiz.

He said the recipients represent diversity in the region and the organization is committed to increasing educational opportunities for minority students. CSP also manages scholarships for partner organizations and private donors. “Our partners may have specific background criteria for some scholarships,” said Ruiz.

Last year CSP students received an additional $38.5 million in scholarships from government, institutions, and private sources.

Students must have a cumulative grade point average of 2.0, minimum ACT score of 18, demonstrate financial need based on Federal poverty guidelines and be residents of the following counties: Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, and Trumbull.

Ruiz said there are no shortcuts to be guaranteed a scholarship, as most awards are need-based but emphasized past academic performance carries a lot of weight.  “We like to support students who have the best chance of graduating,” he said. Non-traditional and adult students with a GED also receive nearly $500,000 in scholarships annually.

The average scholarships amount of $2000 is divided by academic session and submitted directly to colleges/universities. To remain eligible for the next academic year, students submit grades to CSP as proof they have maintained a 2.5 G.P.A.

“Some scholarships do increase if the sponsor has more money available, all are renewable for up to four years,” said Ruiz. Students enrolled in summer session may request funding for that semester.

CSP also provides career planning, financial aid advising, preparation for standardized tests, college advising and mentoring. Thirty CSP advisors are available in 75 participating middle and high schools to assist students in filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

 Also, CSP operates Educational Talent Search (ETS), which prepares middle school students from low income families prepare for college through after-school programs, mentorships, university tours, and career shadowing. To be eligible, students have to be potential first generation college graduates in their family.

John Carroll University student, Amanda Colon credits her participation in ETS for preparing her for a good university experience. “I received help in preparing for the SAT and ACT, recommendation letters, and guidance with college applications. If I hadn't received the help I did from ETS I most likely wouldn't have been at JCU today,” she said. Colon encourages youngsters to take advantage of the program, “With the help of ETS, you have a promising future ahead of you.”

She is grateful for the scholarships she received saying they make it possible for her to attend JCU. A Marketing major, with a minor in Spanish, Colon would like to return to JCU to earn an MBA and eventually begin her own business to be;“My own boss!

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded CSP a five-year, $375,000 grant to set up the project in partnership with WECO Fund Inc. of Cleveland. CSP will provide $375,000 in matching scholarship funds to help 210 students attend college. Students will receive 12 hours of financial education, one-on-one coaching, and are asked to save $750 in their Individual Development Accounts over two years to be eligible to receive $3000 in scholarship money.

Ruiz said the economy has limited the endowment’s funds but CSP has a strong network of donors and partners that sustain its scholarships. However, other services like Professional mentoring, and workshops have suffered.

“If any student would like to be mentored or is seeking financial guidance, they can contact us,” said Ruiz. He recommends anyone interested in mentoring should contact the CSP office. “The only requirement for mentors is they have to go through a background check,” he said.

For more information on CSP visit: http://www.cspohio.org






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