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Tony Dejak/AP
The Akron sewage plant, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008, in Akron, Ohio. The city of Akron
wants to address a brain drain and rising tuition by leasing the city-owned
sewage system to
a private contractor for up to $200 million and using the money for college scholarships. (AP)

Ohio Town Wants to Sell Sewage for Scholarships

August 28, 2008 01:00 PM
by Isabel Cowles
The mayor of Akron, Ohio, has proposed leasing its sewage company to a private contractor to raise scholarship money that would keep educated professionals in the area.
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Mayor Don Plusquellic of Akron, Ohio, has proposed leasing the city-owned sewage system to a private contractor in exchange for $200 million, which would fund college scholarships for the city’s graduating high-school students.

The incentive for the scholarships stems from a need to retain educated citizens. Details are still in the works, but if the recipient moves away from the city, the scholarship would convert to a low-cost loan. Supporters of the plan are pushing for a 30-year residency requirement.

Plusquellic’s proposal has been opposed by city sewage workers and some citizens who fear the risks of leasing an essential public asset to an outside corporation.

Justin Draeger, spokesman for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, believes that any effort to increase student financial aid is valuable, though a 30-year residency requirement is too long.

Ohio officials have begun focusing more seriously on retaining valuable members of the workforce to stop the Ohio “brain drain.” According to state Rep. Jay Hottinger, “Forty-one percent of medical students, 37 percent of doctoral students, 27 percent of students earning a bachelor’s degree and 24 percent earning a master’s degree leave the state of Ohio soon after they graduate. While we might turn out large numbers of graduates, a large percentage is leaving Ohio for better opportunities elsewhere.”

Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., explains why students choose to leave Ohio after making use of the state’s great educational opportunities:
“It’s not sufficient to have a state-of-the art network of public universities or to make tuition more affordable … If you want your kids to stay here, if you want your grandkids to be here, we better have communities that attract them and that keep them …They want that kind of vibrant, vital downtown with that very distinctive mix of cultures and ethnic groups.”

Reference: What is privatization?

Related Topic: The Kalamazoo Promise

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