February 26th, 2015

Alabama Possible, The Community Foundation Of Greater Birmingham, And Others Join National Network To Increase Post-High School Attainment

For Immediate Release:                  
February 26, 2015

Contact: Adam Muhlendorf, Longleaf Strategies
adam@longleafstrategies.com; (334) 625-0175

Birmingham, Ala. – A new partnership seeking to increase the number of Birmingham City School graduates enrolling in and graduating from the area’s two- and four-year postsecondary institutions was today named one of twenty cities from across the country to receive national support.

Alabama Possible, a statewide anti-poverty nonprofit organization, leads the partnership that includes, among others, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Birmingham City Schools, the Birmingham Education Foundation, Jefferson State Community College, Lawson State Community College, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The partnership’s long-term goals include enrolling 75 percent of Birmingham City School graduates in postsecondary education immediately following high school and for 65 percent of those students to complete a degree or earn a credential within six years of their initial enrollment.

A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy and the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education found that the college achievement gap is growing between non-poverty and low-income students. The study found that while more low-income students are enrolling in a postsecondary program, non-poverty students are eight times more likely than individuals from low-income families to obtain a degree by age 24.

The Birmingham partnership will provide low-income and first-generation college students with a network of resources and relationships that will equip them to overcome the economic and social barriers that prevent many students from starting and finishing college.

“Low-income students, like those who graduate from Birmingham City Schools, are among the least likely to attain the thing most likely to lift them out of poverty: a college degree or credential,” said Kristina Scott, executive director of Alabama Possible. “Our partnership’s goals include aligning support services to overcome the economic, social and psychological barriers for low-income and first-generation students to build a culture of college access and success.”

“Through our involvement with workforce development we hear regularly from employers that it is a struggle to find talent for jobs ranging from production workers to operational and business managers,” said James McCrary, vice president of Programs at the Community Foundation. “There are good jobs out there and we believe this program will help to better prepare our students for those jobs, increase their marketability and improve their earning potential. Having access to these resources will substantially impact the future of these students.”

“The pathway to a high-quality credential is not an easy one,” said Dr. Perry Ward, president of Lawson State Community College. “In preparing tomorrow’s workforce, we realize that there are sometimes substantial obstacles between student enrollment and degree completion. It becomes imperative that we use creative measures, form strong partnerships and identify specific needs to better service our students and ensure their success in the classroom and as productive citizens in society.”

The Birmingham partnership is one of two cities in Alabama that were tapped to join the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation’s community-based attainment network. The partnership in Birmingham and a second group in Mobile, led by the Mobile Area Education Foundation, were among the 20 cities named by Lumina Foundation today, bringing the total number of cities involved in Lumina Foundation’s network to 75.

Lumina Foundation’s work is designed to help communities and regions dramatically increase the number of local residents with postsecondary credentials. Lumina’s focus on community-based attainment began because of the Foundation’s recognition that community-based networks are well-suited to play a role in institutional planning and can provide the implementation and coordination that is necessary to create impact at state and federal levels in order to improve the nation’s higher education system so that it better serves students.

“Two-thirds of Americans live in or near cities. Our nation cannot meet its growing demand for citizens who have earned a postsecondary credential without meaningful community-based efforts that are tightly focused on increasing educational attainment,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president and CEO. “We are very pleased with the way this work has unfolded. With 75 communities across the nation working to align the work of business, civic and education efforts in their local communities, greater coordination will occur, resulting in tangible benefits for students of all ages. These students in turn will become graduates who form the backbone of the future economic, social and cultural success of those communities.”

Birmingham and the other communities will work closely with Lumina and other national thought leaders to develop a customized action plan focused on reaching attainment goals to increase the percentage of high-quality credentials held by community residents. The collaborative effort connects participating cities with significant technical and planning assistance, data tools, flexible funding, and the ability to customize attainment plans that will best suit each community’s needs and the well-being of its residents. Local leaders heading up this work represent a range of sectors from higher education, to K-12, employers, human services, religious and a variety of other community-based organizations.

The overall effort connects to Goal 2025, Lumina’s national goal to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Progress toward the goal will be measured by credentials earned after high school, including certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees held by local residents. The cities selected will work with Lumina through 2016 to expand and deepen the work they have demonstrated in advancing postsecondary attainment agendas.

The third and final cohort of communities include: Atlanta, Ga.; Birmingham, Ala.; Boise, Idaho; Charleston, S.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Durham, N.C.; Fresno, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; Monterey Bay, Calif.; Racine, Wis.; Rockford, Ill.; Shasta County, Calif.; Southern Indiana; Springfield, Mo.; St. Louis, Mo.; Tampa, Fla.; Tulsa, Okla.; Twin Cities, Minn.; Tyler, Texas.

To view a complete list of cities participating in this work, national thought leaders assisting these cities, and to learn more about this work please click here.

About Lumina Foundation: Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina’s outcomes-based approach focuses on helping to design and build an accessible, responsive and accountable higher education system while fostering a national sense of urgency for action to achieve Goal 2025. For more information, log on to: www.luminafoundation.org

Alabama Possible is a statewide 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing poverty and its root cause across Alabama. AP educates Alabamians about poverty, collaborates with colleges and faith-based institutions on poverty-reduction activities and advocates for fact-based policy decisions. AP was founded in 1993 and is based in Birmingham, AL. For more information visit www.alabamapossible.org.