Marion Buck$ Cash in for College

By Kelsey Pohlman
Outreach and Engagement Communications Intern

When there's an Ohio State campus in your hometown, the university becomes an even larger part of the community. In the instance of The Ohio State University at Marion - they want to do even more.

Six years ago, Dave Claborn, director of development and community relations at Ohio State Marion, came together with his team to develop an idea that would reward good, local students: GoBuck$. GoBuck$ is a scholarship program that provides students attending Marion City Schools tuition vouchers for attendance and academic achievement.

Educational Support Provider Elizabeth Claborn (L) and Principal Erika Bower present students with a GoBuck$ voucher at McKinley Elementary School, Marion City Schools.

Educational Support Provider Elizabeth Claborn (L) and Principal Erika Bower present students with a GoBuck$ voucher at McKinley Elementary School, Marion City Schools. (photo credit: Dave Claborn).

"It began as a thought that we needed to get better connected to the community; we can't sit as an island of academia in a working class town," Claborn explained. "So we met with the city schools superintendent and asked what he needed. When we found out they were below the mark on state attendance criteria, we knew we could help by providing small incentives for good attendance - and to give students a connection to Ohio State Marion."

Ohio State Marion provides students with a $25 voucher for proper attendance and a $50 voucher for reaching specific academic criteria, which are set by the team in each school building. With this reward system, students can earn up to $3,300 in tuition from kindergarten through high school.

"Schools can use the vouchers, for example, as incentives to improve reading or math scores, or to reward good behavior," Claborn stated. "And giving 4,600 students in Marion City Schools the opportunity to look at the school that's right in their backyard does a lot of social good."

"GoBuck$ was established before I got here and I was amazed that our students had the opportunity to earn money toward a local college while they were still in high school," Marion City Schools Superintendent Gary Barber stated. "Ohio State Marion wants to increase the bachelor's attainment locally, which is a substantial commitment."

Ohio State Marion makes this commitment to its local students with a large amount of success. Marion City Schools measures its student's acceptance results when transitioning into college, and they've seen a positive correlation.

"We have had more of our students get accepted into college and our enrollment has gone up at Ohio State Marion because of this program," Barber said. "We know it's making an impact, but we can always improve our messaging efforts to students and parents."

Even though Barber thinks messaging could be improved, some college-level students think it's impact has already been felt.

"I had looked at other colleges, but none of them had anything like GoBuck$," said Ashley Clark, Marion Harding High School graduate and nursing major at Ohio State Marion. "I didn't get a lot of scholarship money, so it definitely helped with tuition and books."

Clark's mother, Alyce Clark, has also felt the positive impact that GoBuck$ has had on the Marion community.

"I think it's great. Usually it's up to the parents to come up with a way for the kids to go to school. This is an easy way for the kids to help pay for their education," she said. "Even if it's just $50...every little bit is going to help."

Students celebrate their GoBuck$ vouchers.

Students celebrate their GoBuck$ vouchers.

The program isn't only seeing an increase in Marion City students attending the Marion campus, it has also impacted attendance records at the schools themselves.

"The schools have embraced this program, they even have bulletin boards with the names of students who have won the certificates that year," Claborn said. "The parents are incentivized by the program as well. We're even helping improve the overall attendance here."

The GoBuck$ program in the Marion City Schools is supported through a generous endowment funded by Ohio State alumnus and the founder of a Marion fertilizer company, George Alber. Additionally, through a separate endowment started by Marion residents Art and Ann Lowe, the program is now in all four Marion County school districts. "We hope to grow that endowment so we can expand GoBuck$ to a K-12 program in the county schools as well," said Claborn.

If, through GoBuck$ and other engagement, Ohio State Marion can help raise educational attainment in their home county, "then we can have a long-term economic and social impact here," said Claborn.

"There's something about these smaller, middle-class communities that's worth preserving. Marion has been supported by heavy industry for so long, but now we have to shift," Claborn said. "We can change the direction of our children and make sure that our kids not only graduate, but are headed into college and careers that will sustain them and their community going forward."

In Marion, at least, "GoBuck$" is more than a rallying cry for Ohio State sports teams. It is a call toward a community's robust future through a unique partnership with The Ohio State University.


Contact: Dave Claborn, claborn.17@osu.edu
Program website: https://osumarion.osu.edu/initiatives/education/gobuck$.html