Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Education

Officials remain hopeful about Urban Teaching Academy scholarships

TAMPA — Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia and Hillsborough Education Foundation president Philip Jones have said they're confident that graduates of the Urban Teaching Academy will get the college scholarships they were promised.

But if there is a quick fix for the first class of aspiring teachers, they haven't found it.

Jones previously described a dollar-for-dollar match from Hillsborough Community College that could double the more than $17,000 already in a foundation account for the program.

HCC's foundation does match scholarships, college spokeswoman Ashley Carl said. But some funds are earmarked to match other education foundation scholarships.

After determining how much of that money is committed, HCC will likely provide one-year grants for five to 10 students, she said.

Similarly complex is the situation at the University of South Florida.

Elia said last week that USF president Judy Genshaft offered to help incoming teaching academy students get scholarships.

She did, USF spokesman Michael Hoad said. But much of the help will be counselors working with students to identify other scholarships.

In cases where a student does not qualify for other assistance, it's possible that USF will grant outright scholarships. But Hoad could not say how many.

"We're saying we'll work with them," he said. "It's not that we're generating a block of money."

Students in the magnet program at Blake, Hillsborough and Middleton high schools were promised tuition and book funds if they completed the program and returned to the school district after college to teach at urban schools.

But the funding source was never clear.

Former education foundation staff members say they opened an account but never agreed to raise the money.

Since the Tampa Bay Times first reported the story on April 3, the fund has grown to more than $18,000, Jones said.

He estimated 29 students are finishing the program. Of them, 22 appear eligible for need-based financial aid.

But district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said only 16 have been accepted into college.

Some didn't take a college entrance exam or pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test or perform enough community service, she said, adding that counselors are working to help students meet requirements.

Jones said there are 100 students in the freshman, sophomore and junior classes who enrolled expecting scholarships. Of those, 56 appear eligible for need-based aid. He hopes to help this group of students through the nonprofit organization Take Stock in Children.

He's also calling on private donors and remains optimistic that students will get the funding they were promised.

"We're on the eve of getting some really nice donations," he said. "Mark my words: We will solve this and these kids don't have anything to worry about."

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

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