• Laura Johnson Head Shot 2014
Categorized As:
Education & Talent

Recognizing Progress... and Importing What Works

Less than a month after releasing the Global Positioning Strategy for World Class Education and Talent Development, I found myself back at WHYY among a group of national leaders working to make progress on one of the GPS’s top goals: significantly increasing postsecondary credential attainment.


The meeting was a gathering of regions competing for a $1 million prize from CEOs for Cities and the Lumina and Kresge foundations. The Talent Dividend prize will be awarded to the region that exhibits the greatest increase in the number of postsecondary degrees granted per one thousand population over a three-year period. Of the 57 regions competing for the prize, Philadelphia was chosen to host the gathering in recognition of successful efforts like Graduate! Philadelphia and Campus Philly – both best practice programs that emerged from Economy League analysis and strategy work over the past decade. In addition to participants learning from our experiences, we also heard about promising efforts elsewhere, including LouisvilleHoustonCleveland, and Memphis.


Preliminary results for the first year of the Talent Dividend competition (2010-2011) placed our region in the middle of the pack, at a population-adjusted 3.3 percent increase in degrees awarded. But these data also showed that things are moving in the right direction: our region awarded 2,189 more degrees at the bachelor’s level or higher in 2011 than in 2010 and 533 more associates degrees. To ensure that these numbers keep moving in the right direction, the Greater Philadelphia Talent Dividend Partnership has been convened by the CEO Council for Growth to help guide and align a set of shared strategies for regional impact, including focusing on associate’s degrees, reducing time to completion, and supporting “comebackers.”


To raise the level of visibility of successful efforts to increase college access and completion in our region, the Partnership has issued Regional Challenges designed to recognize local best practices. Honors will be awarded this fall to area businesses, institutions of higher education, and collaborative efforts that are moving our region closer to its postsecondary degree attainment goals. Applications are due by June 30th (click here to learn more and to apply). There are plenty of model efforts and best practices that can be replicated and scaled within our own region … and we want to hear about them and give them their due.


And speaking of replication and scaling, the GreenLight Fund – a new player in local philanthropy – last week announced that it was bringing two proven college persistence and workforce readiness programs to Philadelphia. A $1 million grant to New York-based Single Stop USA will seed a partnership with Community College of Philadelphia connecting low-income students and their families with financial resources and other support to ensure degree completion. Single Stop plans to work with more than 1,000 students in its first year and grow from there. A second $1.33 million grant went to Boston-based Year Up to help disconnected young adults enroll in higher education while receiving professional training to secure family-sustaining wages. The investment will allow Year Up to reach up to 1,200 18-to-24 year olds over the next five years.


Between hosting the Talent Dividend conference, a new local award program to shine a spotlight on business and higher ed commitments to degree attainment, and a significant investment bringing two proven programs to Philadelphia … not a bad month for ongoing efforts to make our region a national leader in postsecondary credential attainment.