Grove City residents who apply for scholarship money through the city's Higher Education Investment Program will be required to perform 10 hours of qualified community service each semester in which they receive a grant.

The option of agreeing to remain a Grove City resident for three years after the last scholarship award, instead of performing the community service, has been removed.

The removal of the post-scholarship residency commitment was recommended by the Higher Education Investment Committee, the group that oversees the scholarship program, and city council approved it at its Sept. 3 meeting.

Since the program began in the fall of 2016, applicants had the option of either completing community service or making the three-year residency commitment. Eliminating the residency option will save the city the time and expense of finding the scholarship recipients who were not staying in Grove City, committee member John Hampson said.

"The administration was tracking down these folks who did not fulfill their promise and that takes time," he said. "Were we collecting the (scholarship) money -- yes we were. Were we successful with that -- yes we were; however, it takes a great deal of capital to follow through with those things," he said.

The committee also examined the benefits received from the community service, Hampson said.

"We were getting community service and valuable community service" from scholarship recipients, he said.

The students gained "a sense of community, a sense of belonging and a sense of value" from their efforts, Hampson said.

"They were finding mentors, teachers and programs that they could buy into and in doing that some of them may decide to stay with us," he said. "That's our hope. But forcing them to live here isn't realistic. You can't force a person to live in a particular area."

While about 11% of applicants who have chosen the community service option have not fulfilled their commitment, those who don't complete at least 10 hours of service work in a semester don't get their scholarship money, Hampson said.

Over the last three years, the program has provided 265 scholarships totaling $214,000.

To qualify, a student must be a Grove City resident, attend a participating school and agree to complete the 10 hours of community service per semester. They must also maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average.

Full-time students receive a $1,000 tuition payment to their school and part-time students receive a $500 scholarship. Each qualifying student can reapply each semester and receive up to $12,000 in total scholarship money.

They must attend a school that has a presence in Grove City. The participating schools include Columbus State Community College, which offers classes at the South-Western Career Academy, although students can attend any of Columbus State's campuses. The others are Ohio Christian School at Grove City Church of the Nazarene and Ohio Dominican University at the career academy.

Although Grove City's scholarship program was designed to help keep students in the city, it also was created as a way to encourage schools to open a permanent location in Grove City, Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said.

"To me, from a pure marketing standpoint, this is money well spent," Stage said. "If nothing more than what you're able to convey to perspective employers that we have such a program."

There is an ongoing effort to convince a college to establish a brick-and-mortar presence in the Grove City area, Hampson said.

While she voted to accept the committee's recommendation. councilwoman Christine Houk said she would have been inclined not to support the creation of the scholarship program had she been on council when it was initiated.

She said she questions whether local government "should be in the scholarship business," she said.

"I think it's important to discuss whether we need a brick-and-mortar location in order to fulfill that higher education mission, because more and more people are able to go online to get a degree and accomplish the education they would like to achieve," Houk said.

It's a question that should still be discussed even as the Higher Education Investment Program continues, she said.

The application deadline for scholarships for the winter and spring semesters is Nov. 1.

More information and a link to the application is available at grovecityohio.gov.

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman