Zips’ drive: 2 ways Akron is trying to reach new students

A free tuition offer and other perks are available to first-time students who agree to enroll at the Ohio university.

The University of Akron is reaching out to new students with an offer: apply to the university, fill out a FAFSA form and you could be eligible for free tuition, a waiving of the general fee and … no-cost summer classes for credit.

Akron’s Zips Affordability Scholarship, paired with the new program called Strong Start, gives prospective students a unique marketing pitch to mull over.

“We realize that we need to do our part to help remove the barriers to degree attainment, which is so critical to developing talent and moving our region forward,” said John Wiencek, executive vice president and provost. “The Zips Affordability Scholarship and Strong Start program will help local students get a solid start in their college career.”

Higher education institutions across the country are seeking new avenues to attract students, especially after last year’s fall off in enrollment from the 2020 graduating class. Though application numbers at many private elite and big brand public institutions have soared this year, other institutions are still hoping to attract top talent and hit targets for 2021-22.

Akron has not been short on ideas. It froze tuition for the upcoming academic year. It slashed student housing by 30%. And it already offers a bevy of scholarships to incoming freshmen and transfer students, include a guaranteed award, a $3,000 bonus for out-of-state students that qualify and an innovation award for those who attend public schools in the city.

The Zips Affordability Scholarship is different in that it will go specifically to Pell-eligible students. They must live in the six-county area that surrounds Akron and they must be first-time students. Aside from delivering on the paperwork, they must maintain a 2.0 GPA while attending the university and enroll full-time for eight consecutive semesters.

And for the first 100 students that are accepted, they can earn a spot in the Strong Start summer program. The enticement of being able to get a jumpstart on a college career for free is a nice perk. To incentivize the offer, Akron has pitched four reasons why the summer offer can give students an edge over others:

  1. Small classes that offer two modalities. Akron says that no more than 20 students will be in each class – which will feature both in-person and hybrid learning.
  2. A free device. Students in the group get a free Dell laptop.
  3. Credit. Students won’t just be taking remedial courses. They will be getting credit for a general education course that can be applied to their degree path.
  4. A ‘Design Your Life’ course. Not only will students receive credit for taking this experiential course, but they also will learn how to structure and design a pathway where can thrive. They will “learn the importance of collaboration, mentorship and growth mindset to tackle problems and discover what drives them to succeed.” Students then will have the option of taking a 1-credit course in the fall with the same instructor to build on that momentum.
Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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