A 2010 report by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University estimates that 63 percent of all job openings over the next eight years will require postsecondary education or training. However, only 38 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 hold an Associate’s Degree or higher and only 27 percent of students who enroll in community colleges actually complete their degrees within three years of enrolling.
MDC’s Partners for Postsecondary Success (PPS) program is a three-year demonstration to build community partnerships that significantly raise the number of low-income young adults completing postsecondary credentials relevant to living wage work. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the initiative examines two related but different lines of inquiry: first, are high-capacity community partnerships effective vehicles for improving postsecondary completion rates for low-income young adults, and second, is MDC's methodology for helping communities develop such partnerships effective across cities of varying demographics and resources?
Through a competitive process, four partnerships—Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., and Amarillo and Brownsville, Texas—were selected to receive Gates Foundation planning grants of up to $100,000. Amarillo, Brownsville and Raleigh also received implementation grants of up to $1.3 million; Charlotte was named an affiliate site with support to continue as part of the PPS learning community.
MDC received $2.56 million from the Gates Foundation to provide coaching and technical support to participating partnerships. Through site visits and shared learning events, MDC coaches use Reflective PlanningTM methods to help sites examine the current and historic status of low-income young adults and to identify and implement evidence-based strategies to address inequities in education and employment. Coaches also support the development of six essential capacities that MDC believes communities must have in order to sustain an equity agenda: cross-sector partnerships, multi-level leadership, a culture of evidence and inquiry, community engagement, supportive policy, and sustainable resources.
PPS includes an annual Learning Institute that brings the partnerships together to inform each other's work and to engage national experts. Over 250 people attended the 2012 Institute, including representatives from MDC's Lumina-funded Latino Student Success initiative and the National League of Cities' Communities Learning in Partnership initiative. The event featured presentations by Juliet Garcia, president of The University of Texas at Brownsville, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, and MDC board member and director of the Institute for Emerging Issues Anita Brown-Graham.
Each PPS site is also represented by a community leader in the MDC Fellows program. The fellowship, inaugurated as part of PPS, is designed for mid-career professionals affiliated with partner sites who wish to broaden their knowledge of social justice and equity. In addition to working with their local community partnerships, fellows visit MDC, to advance their professional development, inform MDC's perspective, and deepen their capacity to serve their home communities. Each fellow conducts a learning project with guidance from MDC. Current projects include:
- improving strategies for community engagement
- meeting the post-secondary needs of Latino youth
- providing student support services
- serving the educational needs of returning veterans.
Lead organizations in each city coordinate the work of the partnerships and include:
- Amarillo, TX—Amarillo Area Foundation
- Brownsville, TX—United Way of Southern Cameron County
- Raleigh, NC—North Carolina State University
As an affiliated site, Charlotte is represented by the Foundation For The Carolinas.
PPS sites have demonstrated their financial commitment by securing matching funds of at least $240,000 and must document sustainability plans as part of their implementation efforts. Additionally, PPS partnerships are employing strategies to deepen awareness and active involvement of all community sectors, to effectively use data in decision-making, and to improve system-level policy and practice to support education and employment for low-income young adults.
Initial evaluation reports from the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning indicate that the PPS sites are making good progress and that they highly value their work with MDC.
Examples of key strategies at PPS sites include:
- Amarillo partners adapted the No Excuses University college readiness model embraced by 12 Amarillo ISD schools to create three pilot No Limits/No Excuses Neighborhoods. Amarillo College became the nation's first “No Excuses” college and launched The Benefit Bank® of Texas.
- The Brownsville partnership forged an agreement with the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC) to offer incentives for apprenticeships, internships, and flexible work schedules that align with employees’ education efforts.
- Charlotte's Latin American Coalition has launched College Access Para Todos, a youth-led, youth-serving initiative to educate immigrant families and secondary and postsecondary administrators on strategies to address the multiple challenges facing immigrant students seeking postsecondary success. More than 100 Latino youth participated in the first year of this program.
- Raleigh recently opened its first Raleigh College Center, an information hub for the community to learn more about attending college, at the Chavis Community Center. The City of Raleigh contributed the space for the College Center—evidence of the city’s commitment.