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Mayor Greg Fischer Newsroom


Mayor Announces Innovation Competition to Increase College Graduates

Friday September 28, 2012

55,000 Degrees and Gheens Foundation sponsor global competition

One really bright, workable concept for increasing the number of college graduates in Louisville could win you a really big prize – $20,000.

Mayor Greg Fischer today announced the 55,000 Degrees Innovation in Education Attainment Competition, a world-wide quest for knowledge-building innovations sponsored by the Gheens Foundation, during a news conference at the Kentucky Science Center in downtown Louisville.

Fischer, chairman of the 55,000 Degrees movement, said the competition “puts our money where our mouth is” in the community’s effort to increase the number of college-educated citizens by more than 55,000 over the next eight years.

The competition seeks ideas that achieve two key goals:

  • Motivating and supporting students, both traditional and adult learners, to earn a post-secondary degree;
  • Employing technology-based approaches to improve degree completion rates and attract more college-educated people to Louisville.

“Money rewards innovation – and innovation makes our lives and communities better,” Fischer said. “That’s true whether we’re talking about computer chips, medical breakthroughs, advances in nanotechnology or barrier-busting ideas for helping more people earn college degrees.”

The competition is a two-phase process that begins today, Sept. 28, with the call for proposals, said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees. Individuals and teams from around the world are invited to submit proposals through the 55,000 Degrees’ website, www.55000degrees.org/prize, prior to the Nov. 2 deadline.

A team of judges will screen the concept proposals based on published criteria and invite a select group of “Round II” finalists to develop and submit a working model or prototype of their idea by the end of March 2013. The $20,000 prize will be awarded to a minimum of one and maximum of two finalists. 55,000 Degrees will collaborate with the Round II winner to identify additional opportunities for implementing and deploying the model. The first Innovation in Educational Attainment prize is expected to be awarded in the first half of 2013.

Fischer said he’s optimistic that several of the ideas received can have a direct impact on the community’s on-going campaign to increase college attainment and achieve the 55,000-degree goal by 2020.

“We’re on the right track and making good progress,” Fischer said. “But we’re not going to stop looking for better ways to increase the number of our citizens with college degrees who can hold and attract good-paying jobs.”

For more information about the Innovation in Educational Attainment competition, go to www.55000degrees.org/prize.