Can education break the cycle of generational poverty?
It can and it has. The Ohio State University at Marion (counts among its students many who are the first in their family to go to college.
They usually go on to successful careers earning well in excess of what they might have earned had they not pursued a college degree.
Just one example is Mel Strine, a Cardington boy whose mother urged him to attend college.
Mel says starting on the Marion campus was the key to his future success. He went on to earn an MBA from Ohio State and now heads a successful petroleum marketing firm on the East Coast. Mel and his brothers believe in the power of education — and that's why they fund several scholarships.
There is no shortage of evidence showing the tremendous difference increasing amounts of education can make in earning ability.
Just Google "education and income" and you'll find numerous charts showing the steep incline in average income as educational attainment increases.
In Marion County, for example, US Census data shows those with less than a high school education (about 14.5 percent of Marion County residents age 25 and older) can expect to earn just under $18,000 per year. Not surprisingly, more than 29 percent of that group falls below the poverty line. Compare that to the median income for a Marion County resident who's earned a bachelor's degree.
That person, on average, will earn over $43,000 per year, nearly 21/2 times as much as someone without a high school diploma. Only 2.2 percent of those college grads will find themselves in poverty. Unfortunately, only 12.4 percent of Marion County adults (less than half the state and national percentage) have obtained a bachelor's degree or higher.
It's not just about the economics, however.
A college education gives the recipient a broad view, enhances critical thinking, and generally allows that family to function as contributing members of the community.
The issue, then, for Marion — and the midwest, for that matter — is can we improve educational attainment and earning potential while maintaining our ties to a heritage of hard work and industrial ingenuity? I think so, but it will mean an educational system that capitalizes on the strengths of the Midwest culture — engineering programs, for example, that train the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs, or social work, education, or perhaps biology or pre-law degrees whose graduates can help their hometowns transition to the new economy.
The good news is that we have all the tools here in Marion County. We have a vibrant campus of our state's flagship university in our community. We have a strong K-12 system, an innovative career center, and a technical college in the educational mix.
The new Gear Up program in the Marion City Schools brings counseling and dollars to many first-generation students. Ohio State Marion's GoBuck$ program allows students to earn college tuition as they excel in their K-12 years.
Over a million dollars a year in Ohio State Marion scholarships and many more through the Marion Community Foundation and other sources make a college education very affordable.
It comes down to will and determination.
Do we, as individuals, as families, as a community want to increase our educational attainment —the better to care for ourselves and our children? The tools are here.
Whether we use them is up to each of us.
Dave Claborn is Director of Development & Community Relations at The Ohio State University at Marion.
Source: Marion Star