More than 60,000 Cleveland residents are believed to have completed some college coursework but never earned a degree.

That’s a big deal. Having advanced education can better both individuals’ lives as well as the economic health of a city and region. Plus, the pandemic amplified enrollment struggles at most local higher education institutions, and this group could present an additional pool of students for administrators to enroll at their campuses.

New legislation approved by Cleveland City Council’s Workforce, Education, Training and Youth Development Committee Tuesday may help. 

College Now Greater Cleveland asked for $300,000 of pandemic-era federal relief funding to help more city residents learn about opportunities to help people get back in the classroom. 

Maggie McGrath, executive director of the Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland, said this money would go towards launching a “multi-faceted marketing campaign.” 

The plan is to work with a communications firm to produce things like bus ads as well as social media campaigns targeting areas where there are higher levels of residents who have some college but no degree, McGrath told committee members.

“The time is now,” McGrath said. “The funds are out there, and we need to communicate that to city residents.” 

One of those funding opportunities is called the Ohio College Comeback Compact. The initiative, announced in 2021, is a partnership between eight public colleges in Northeast Ohio, the nonprofit consulting group Ithaka S+R, the Ohio Department of Higher Education, and College Now. 

It wipes away up to $5,000 of institutional debt a student may owe – things like unpaid tuition and fees to a college, for example – if they re-enroll in one of the participating institutions. Per the Compact’s guidelines, it doesn’t have to be the institution where they began their education, either. 

There’s also a separate initiative, supported by $1 million from Cuyahoga County, to help county residents begin again specifically at Cuyahoga Community College or Cleveland State University. That effort can wipe away up to $2,000 of institutional debts.   

The legislation for the requested $300,000 still awaits final approval from the full council. 

Amy Morona covers higher education for Signal Cleveland, in partnership with Open Campus.

Higher education reporter for Signal Cleveland in partnership with Open Campus.