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Mayor Greg Fischer Newsroom


Louisville Earns National Grant to Help Reach 55,000 Degrees Goal

Wednesday December 4, 2013

Lumina Foundation selects city for national partnership

55,000 Degrees, Louisville’s education movement, has been awarded a $200,000 grant by the Lumina Foundation to further the community’s ambitious goal – half of the working-age adults with college degrees by 2020.

Louisville was announced today as one of the first 20 cities in America to partner with the Lumina Foundation in a mobilization effort to increase the number of local residents with college degrees. The grant brings Lumina’s total investment in Louisville to the $1 million mark, adding to the $800,000, multi-year grant awarded in 2010.

“The Lumina Foundation clearly recognizes and supports the progress we’re making in Louisville,” said Mayor Greg Fischer, chairman of 55,000 Degrees. “We’re proud to be a trailblazer in Lumina’s nationwide movement to increase education attainment – a movement that will create economic opportunities for our citizens and our city.”

55,000 Degrees was selected because of Louisville’s on-going commitment to education attainment. Earlier this month, Fischer released the annual 55,000 Degrees Progress Report, which revealed Louisville now has the highest percentage of college graduates in the city’s history – 41.3 percent of working-age adults.

As part of the nationwide Lumina partnership, Louisville will have access to significant technical and planning assistance, data tools, flexible funding and guidance from a network of national thought leaders.

“More and more communities are coming to the same conclusion that set us on the path to 55,000 Degrees three years ago,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees. “We must invest our dollars and energies now to foster a smarter workforce that will ensure our cities continue to grow and prosper.”


55,000 Degrees was launched in November 2010 with a 10-year mission. Lumina was one of the major supporters, providing grant funding to support joint efforts by Greater Louisville Inc., the Mayor's Education Roundtable and HIRE, a collaborative of the region’s higher education institutions. The program, now known as Degrees At Work, encourages working adults to earn their college degrees by enlisting employers as partners that provide tuition assistance, mentoring and other supports.

Through the initiative, Louisville will be eligible for an allocation of $200,000 from Lumina over a three-year period. The allocation will be tied to the achievement of goals and the overall effort connects to Goal 2025, a national goal to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.

The grant will help 55,000 Degrees to broaden outreach efforts that encourage people to seek a degree, work with education partners to reduce barriers to degree completion and continue gathering and analyzing data that measure Louisville's progress toward education attainment goals.

“Research shows a direct correlation between thriving cities and education beyond high school,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and chief executive officer of Lumina. “Increased attainment delivers stronger local economies, greater individual earning power and better quality of life.”

Community representatives and project leaders are currently in Indianapolis for a two-day kick-off workshop being led by Lumina.

“It is our hope that Lumina’s support can fan the flames that are already burning in our partnership cities, improving results there and showing cities across the country how this gets done and just how transformational education can be for communities’ social, economic and civic strength,” said Haley Glover, strategy director at Lumina Foundation heading up this work.

55,000 Degrees will have access to a host of national thought-leadership organizations including American Chamber of Commerce Executives, Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions, Brookings Institution, Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, DCA, Inc., Excelencia in Education, The Harwood Institute, Institute for Higher Education Policy, National League of Cities, OMG Center, Say Yes to Education Foundation, Strive Together, Talent Dividend and United Way Worldwide.

The other cities selected by Lumina for the national partnership include Albuquerque, N.M.; Boston, Mass.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ind.; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Greensboro, N.C.; Houston, Texas; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Memphis, Tenn.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Providence, R.I.; Quad Cities, Iowa/Ill.; San Antonio, Texas; Santa Ana, Calif.; South Seattle, Wash., and Syracuse, N.Y..

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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