• Jim Mergiotti Head Shot 2013
Categorized As:
Education & Talent

Keeping Students on Track

Working with the World Class Education and Talent Development Strategy Team was an extraordinarily beneficial experience. Like Peirce College, many of the institutions and organizations represented on the team have life-transforming missions. We are all focused on the same outcomes but serve students and the region at different points on the learning continuum. All of us know instinctively that cross-sector collaboration is the most powerful means to accomplish the ultimate goal of finding success for our constituents. Through our work on World Class, that view not only became more vivid but translated into reality through development of the priority strategies and related action steps contained in the Education and Talent GPS. Several of us have already begun collaborating around this shared agenda to bring forth “best of breed” solutions for enhancing the region’s effectiveness in education and workforce development.


Peirce College serves non-traditional students seeking career-oriented college degrees. Our students are older (average age = 35 years young) and are generally first-generation college students. While pursuing their educational goals, they must balance personal, professional, and community obligations. Peirce acknowledges this challenge by providing a nurturing environment comprised of small class sizes, accessible academic and life-management supports, individualized attention, and high-quality customer service.


Peirce has a history of innovation in supporting adult learners going back to its founding in 1865 to help returning Civil War veterans acquire the skills necessary to succeed in the Industrial Age. In the mid-1990s, Peirce brought college to the adult student by delivering full degree programs on-site in corporate and community settings. More recently, Peirce was an early adopter of online course delivery, providing full degree programs on the Internet since 2000. Today, Peirce offers its curriculum both on campus and online using the same professors, syllabi, and learning outcomes. Most notably, the formats are interchangeable, allowing students to decide on their delivery mode on a course-by-course basis. Supporting its commitment to serving non-traditional students, Peirce begins classes almost every month and uses accelerated eight-week sessions instead of traditional terms. 


Keeping students on track and persisting from term to term is a high-level priority identified in the World Class GPS. At Peirce, we have come to realize that the means by which non-traditional students are recruited and “on-boarded” plays a critical role in determining their likelihood of success. For example, Peirce employs a specialized First Year Initiative (FYI) program to aid students in their initial transition back to the classroom environment after being away for several years, enabling them to better utilize support resources and acquire the personal management skills required to succeed. 


The overall goal of increasing college degree attainment is a top priority of the Nutter Administration and a national concern. CEOs for Cities has calculated that a one percentage point increase in degree attainment in 51 major metropolitan areas would result in a $124 billion increase in per capita income for the nation.


Philadelphia will host CEOs for Cities’ 2013 Talent Dividend Network conference – a gathering of leaders from across the country focused on increasing degree attainment – in April in recognition of its innovative programs related to college recruitment and retention such as Campus PhillyGraduate! Philadelphia, and PhillyGoes2College. CEOs for Cities is also sponsoring a Talent Dividend Competition that will award $1 million to the metropolitan area with the largest percentage increase in degree attainment over a three-year period. Our region is not only competing for the prize, but is using the competition to elevate the profile of best practices among area colleges and universities in promoting persistence, retention, and degree completion. 


Through my work on World Class, I have discovered many innovators seeking to use their creativity in collaborative ways to meet the region’s education and talent development needs across the entire learning continuum. It is clear that becoming a world class region in this space is within our grasp. We can scale the powerful models we have today and develop new ones by agreeing on a strategy and playing to our strengths. The key is doing it together, and the World Class Agenda sets the stage perfectly to maximize our power to do so.