Rising Scholars



The Kent State Ashtabula Rising Scholars Program provides students from Ashtabula County a college-access program designed to give them and their families the knowledge, rigorous academic exposure and social support they will need to be successful at a world-class university.

Rising Scholars is designed to give first-generation and underrepresented students a pathway to achieve a college degree at no cost to participants. Our goal is for every student in our program to complete postsecondary education with the credentials necessary to succeed in his or her career.

Students who successfully complete the high-school portion of the program will be eligible to apply for a Rising Scholars Scholarship at Kent State Ashtabula.

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Rising Scholars Ashtabula Impact

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  • Increase high school graduation rates, enhance college readiness and improve college/postsecondary attendance in rural counties.  
  • Prepare a technically skilled, professionally trained workforce to promote economic growth in the region.
  • Support the success of students who have promising academic ability, but may not have  access to social and educational opportunities that will allow them to reach their potential.
  • Provide sponsored scholarships to cover tuition at Kent State Ashtabula for Rising Scholars and their student mentors.

Much of the debate at the state and federal levels over high school reform has focused on big city schools. However, more than one fifth of the nation’s 2,000 lowest performing high schools are located in rural areas.  Ohio, which has the fourth largest enrollment of rural students in the country, needs to address this rural achievement gap in order to improve educational attainment and economic development. Innovative interventions are needed that will increase the high school graduation rate, enhance college readiness, and improve college/postsecondary attendance in rural communities. 

Rural students face many barriers, including generational poverty, lack of role models, and insufficient academic preparation.  This is clearly evident at the Kent State regional campuses, where 81 percent of students receive financial aid, much of it Pell Grants, and the majority of students require remediation.

The need to prepare a skilled, professional workforce to ensure the prosperity of Ashtabula County could not be greater. The Kent State University at Ashtabula Rising Scholars Program is designed to increase the number of students who continue their education beyond high school, are college ready and enter the workforce with skills that will enhance the economic growth of the region.


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A substantial portion of the student population at Kent State Ashtabula graduated from Ashtabula Area City Schools and have struggled with high drop-out rates and low graduation rates.

Research was undertaken to identify “best practices” addressing innovative rural programs developed to increase the number of students who graduate from high school prepared for college or a career, and improve the likelihood that students will successfully complete college.  Based on the results of this research, the Kent State Rural Scholars program began in 2012 as a partnership with four local schools in Columbiana County.

The primary focus of the Rising Scholars Program is to support the success of a select group of students who have promising academic ability but are not performing up to their potential.  These students, the Rising Scholars, are identified by the school district at the end of 6th grade. Once admitted to the program, they will participate in all of the following through high school graduation:

  • Weekly mentoring from Kent State students
  • An intense summer workshop that focuses on academic skills
  • Biannual one-day workshops that emphasize the connection between education and local career paths

Students are supervised and guided through these experiences over a six-year period until they enroll in postsecondary education. If the Rising Scholar participates in the program and elects to attend college, he or she becomes eligible for a sponsored scholarship that will cover the cost of tuition at Kent State Ashtabula. Following the pay-it-back model, to be eligible for the tuition scholarships, Rising Scholars must have participated in the entire program, maintained a minimum 2.5 GPA, and agreed to serve as a university student mentor for new scholars entering the program.

Participation in the highly successful College Credit Plus (CCP) program, where students can earn college credit while still in high school, is also encouraged. Several national studies have found that students who earn six or more college credits in high school are more likely to graduate college.

A key strength of the Rising Scholars Program is the commitment to leveraging existing local resources like transportation programs, college faculty volunteers, student mentors and a motivated advisory group of leaders in business.

The Rising Scholars Program will work with 7th grade students in the Ashtabula Area City School District and sponsor scholarships for college mentors. As the program expands, we hope to reach all school districts in Ashtabula County. They will include comprehensive support for Rising Scholars from middle and high schools. Additionally, the program requires local funding to support scholarships for university student mentors, the single largest budget item, as well as programming and administrative costs. 


The primary measures of success for the Rising Scholars Program are:

  • At least 40% of the students will complete the five-year program
  • At least 90% of the students will graduate from high school
  • All program graduates will pursue additional postsecondary education
  • At least 50% of the Rising Scholars who graduate from high school will enroll in a college or university
  • The Rising Scholar will require little or no remediation at the college level
  • Scholars receiving sponsored scholarships will commit to working in Northeast Ohio for a specified amount of time after graduation from college

The Kent State Ashtabula Rising Scholars Program can become a model for increasing the number of rural, low-income students who pursue higher education and graduate from college. 

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