Tulsa joins national network to increase post-high school degree attainment

Tulsa is one of 20 cities joining Lumina Foundation’s nationwide Community Partnership for Attainment, which seeks to create and strengthen collaborative partnerships to increase postsecondary degree and certification attainment, the organization announced Thursday.

As part of the 75-city partnership, Tulsa will receive technical assistance, targeted funding, planning tools and data, networking and professional development opportunities. Local efforts will be coordinated with the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s education and workforce division and numerous local partners.

“There is no more significant factor in ensuring the personal well-being of an individual or the greater well-being of a region’s economy than educational attainment,” said Brian Paschal, senior vice president of education and workforce for the Chamber. “Our involvement in Lumina Foundation’s city-peer collaboration and networking is a major milestone in our effort to mobilize our region toward better educational outcomes. We are immensely grateful for this selection.”

Only 34.8 percent of adults in the Tulsa Metropolitan Area have a postsecondary degree, but 308,000 of 541,000 Oklahoma’s projected job vacancies through 2018 are expected to require postsecondary education.

Lumina Foundation’s program 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.

In Tulsa, the work will focus largely on bringing back to school adults who have completed only some college. In the Tulsa Metropolitan Area, there are 148,501 such individuals.

The work will also advance general collaboration to boost degree attainment alongside regional partners such as ImpactTulsa and Tulsa Community College, with Tulsa Achieves. Recent success in such collaboration includes the Finish For Greater Tulsa program, which contributed to a recent increase in the number of Tulsa-area residents who receive associates and bachelor’s degrees from local institutions — 15.9 percent growth between 2010 and 2013. That was the 4th-largest increase among the 57 metropolitan areas that participated in the three-year Talent Dividend contest.

The work is also linked with the Workforce Analysis Project, an unprecedented initiative launched last year with help from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning to analyze the Tulsa area’s workforce strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan to improve job training opportunities and keep the area’s economy competitive.

“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.”

These communities work closely with Lumina and 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.

“Lumina Foundation’s leadership nationally to help coordinate and organize cross-sector partners to improve higher education attainment rates is an invaluable example in education philanthropy,” said Jeff Edmondson, Managing Director of StriveTogether. “They are encouraging local leaders and stakeholders to be thoughtful about how they align resources to scale local practices that get results and innovate in targeted ways as opposed to reinventing the wheel.  As a result, we are learning from these cities and vice versa. We feel confident that this will lead to more sustainable solutions over the long-term and improve the quality of life for entire communities.”

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

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