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Ohio State launches efforts to help families achieve American dream

University and community leaders came together at the Fawcett Center on Tuesday to discuss strategies to create economic opportunities for local families. Credit: Zach Varda | Campus Editor

University and community leaders came together at the Fawcett Center on Tuesday to discuss strategies to create economic opportunities for local families.

The meeting was the beginning of the Alliance for the American Dream, a partnership between Ohio State and Schmidt Futures, which is part of a “larger commitment toward promoting shared prosperity.”

“This is not an Ohio State project, this is a community project,” Bruce McPheron, Ohio State executive vice president and provost, said. “This is us.”

Schmidt Futures, which describes itself as a “venture facility for public benefit” and awarded Ohio State a $1.5 million grant to kick-start the alliance, was founded by Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and former Alphabet executive chairman.

Schmidt visited Columbus in December and noted the “energy and vibrancy of the campus and region” when Ohio State was announced as an inaugural partner of the alliance last month.

Those in attendance included professors and students, as well as important local government and community figures like Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce and Interim Superintendent of Columbus Schools John Stanford.

Before they met in small groups to generate ideas, Elena Irwin, a professor with the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, described the goal to attendees as “seeking highly innovative strategies to raise the income of 10,000 households by 10 percent.”

Irwin shared two pathways identified as starting points for the project. The first is to help families that fall below the middle-class threshold be upwardly mobile, and second is to help middle-class families find greater economic stability.

The middle class in this case is defined as a household whose income falls between two-thirds and 200 percent of the overall median. In Ohio, this means an income of roughly $35,000 to $100,000.

Ohio State was one of four universities chosen by Schmidt Futures to help launch the alliance along with Arizona State University, University of Wisconsin and University of Utah. But, McPheron said Schmidt Futures is not just a donor, rather a partner.

McPheron said Ohio State will contribute up to an additional $500,000 to the project “to make sure we do not have barriers to success.”

Participants broke into brainstorming groups after opening remarks as the beginning of a process that aims to provide ideas to Schmidt Futures. The ultimate goal is for 10 strategies to be generated in the future, of which three will be presented to Schmidt Futures to move forward.

“We are truly on a quest,” Irwin said. “A quest for ideas.”

At the end of the event, City of Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther gave closing remarks to the group, thanking Ohio State for its work in landing the grant from Schmidt Futures. Ginther added that while it was great to start the project, it will be important to make sure it comes through on its promise.

“One-third of those in this community are struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “Everyone deserves the chance to share in our success.”

Ginther said he was “grateful and thankful” for the work of those in attendance Tuesday.

“This group and this work and the partnership with Schmidt Futures really strikes a tone with me,” he said. “My vision for our city is to become an opportunity city.”


  1. Lowering tuition would be a great start! More online class offerings would be another!

  2. As Michael said, lowering tuition is prudent. Additionally, CampusParc can donate its ill-gotten gains (thanks to OSU’s former CFO) to local programs; OSU’s football coach can share his multi-million-dollar income (you know, since it’s just a college game); OSU administrators can satisfy themselves with maybe $150k/year, generously giving the rest to these types of initiatives; and since OSU doesn’t reimburse students for unused supplies and services, that’s another good chunk that can be donated. Maybe students could even help if OSU cancelled its unethical relationships with textbook publishers, demanding students to spend needless millions every year for new, overpriced books that are in every important way identical to older books, including digital books students aren’t able to keep.

    Obviously, I don’t trust OSU to be in this for the good of others if the administrators unashamedly fleece their students for only an average education. While there are excellent teachers at OSU, the school is diseased in its purpose and in its core — as a graduate of the engineering program, I can attest that students are ill-prepared for realistic engineering work. Many teachers know this but can do little to change the situation.

    Even look at this article, presumably written by a journalism student. Two million dollars are being invested, at minimum, yet no question appears to have been asked about how the ends are going to be achieved. Do those who sit on such high mountains (e.g. Google, OSU), have no insight into the present condition of the middle class such that they can’t start the “brainstorming” with a few striking and practicable ideas, setting aside the ambiguous and condescending “help [for] middle-class families [to] find greater economic stability”? What might that look like?

    I encourage folks to also read about Julian Assange’s curious experience with and insight into Eric Schmidt. Peter Thiel is also critical of Google, which is a mere advertising company.

    God bless the fine professors at OSU! There are many and they deserve a better school as much as the students do.

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