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Louisville's 55,000 Degrees Receives Another $200,000 From Lumina Foundation

Louisville's long-term education initiative—55,000 Degrees—has received another $200,000 to continue working toward its goal to increase the number of college degree earners in the city. Project officials say the city needs to ramp up its efforts to support high school to college transitions and working-age adults completing their degrees. 

The Lumina Foundation has named 20 cities that will receive cash and will have access to a number of national organizations that will provide technical and data assistance to help communities improve educational attainment.How that looks in each city will be different, officials say.“The city action plans are going to be really individualized. No city is going to have the same plan as any other. And that’s why we designed the program this way, because every city is legitimately different,” says Lumina strategy director Haley Glover.In Dayton, Ohio that means supporting the Learn to Earn program that concentrates on early childhood education. The Pittsburgh Promise focuses more on the K-12 system and helping students earn scholarship money to continue onto college.Louisville’s 55,000 Degrees initiative takes the pulse from "cradle to grave" including early childhood indicators and working adults completing their degrees.All 20 cities have met Lumina’s criteria for the grant, including setting of post-secondary goals, having a current action plan and choosing a population to address (think low-income, minorities or a specific area of a city). Each city is also addressing equity gaps, says Glover.Lumina will provide assistance and open access to national groups like the Brookings Institution, the National College Access Network and United Way Worldwide.“What we’re trying to do is provide that support, that technical assistance and guidance to help them achieve the results,” says Lumina CEO and President Jamie Merisotis.Each city will set goals that will likely include measurements they already have in place, officials say. Also, the funding is flexible and will be tailored to the city’s individual plans, and can’t be used for scholarships or for lobbying, says Merisotis.“It doesn’t hurt to have this flexible money that they’re providing. It’s not huge amounts but $50,000-$70,000 a year can really make a big difference in being able to target some key activities,” says Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees.Those activities will be based off recent data released in the 2013 55,000 Degrees progress report that showed while many Louisville students say they want to go on to college, they’re not showing up in the fall.“We need to be very clear about where degrees lead to and do we have good pathways into the labor market, into jobs and career pathways,” Wheeler says.Jefferson County Public Schools has also been trying to improve partnerships between schools and businesses, many of which say they can’t find employees with the necessary skills to fill their positions.The report also showed the city should continue targeting working-age adults whom have not yet completed their degrees.The foundation has now given 55,000 Degrees a total of $1 million since its inception in 2010.Lumina says it wants to eventually include 75 cities in its initiative. The first cohort of communities includes: Albuquerque, N.M.; Boston, Mass.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ind.; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Greensboro, N.C.; Houston, Texas; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Louisville, Ky.; Memphis, Tenn.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Providence, R.I.; Quad Cities, Iowa/Ill.; San Antonio, Texas; Santa Ana, Calif.; South Seattle/South King County, Wash. and Syracuse, N.Y.(Image via Shutterstock)

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