Leadership Academy Highlights Partnerships for Postsecondary Success

October 17, 2011
by Jonathan Rogers

Local teams from 10 cities across the nation assembled in Indianapolis on October 5-6 to learn about innovative, multi-sector strategies that promote postsecondary access and completion and the opportunities for municipal leadership in such community partnerships. 

The Leadership Academy for Postsecondary Access and Success, sponsored by NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF Institute), introduced city officials and their education partners to new ways of thinking about coordinated action when seeking to increase postsecondary attainment among both youth and adults in their communities. 

City teams attending included Berkeley, Calif.; Charleston, S.C.; Denver; Indianapolis; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; Pasadena, Calif.; Saint Paul, Minn.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Spokane, Wash. The academy was a key element of the Institute's Municipal Leadership for Postsecondary Success initiative, supported by the Lumina Foundation for Education. 

Indianapolis Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Michael Huber addressed the group and observed that more municipalities are partnering with their higher education institutions. "From an economic development standpoint, the collaboration with university campuses within the city borders grows every year," said Huber. 

Partnerships with non-profit institutions, and universities in particular, provide cities with opportunities to build the strength of communities and foster greater interaction with the urban neighborhoods surrounding them. 

"A generation ago," Huber noted, "cities would often fight against their non-profit institutions, especially universities, but we've gotten over that because of the economic activity these universities generate and their impact on the community." 

In addition to considering possible models for creating and sustaining multi-sector partnerships, city teams sought to identify strategies that address specific barriers to students' success, with an emphasis on boosting completion rates and reconnecting with students and adults who have become disconnected from the formal education system. 

Participants benefited from in-depth discussion of techniques for removing barriers to entry and persistence within educational institutions, and emerging approaches to data sharing, goal setting and measuring progress.

Dr. James Applegate, vice president for program development at the Lumina Foundation for Education, spoke to the urgent need for greater postsecondary completion rates, and the foundation's "big goal" of increasing the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. 

"The only way we get to 60 percent is by doing a better job with low-income, first-generation students of color and adult learners," said Dr. Applegate. He also emphasized that, through new multi-sector collaborations, "we are on the road to creating new pathways for the students who have been shut out from opportunities."

The YEF Institute's Municipal Leadership for Postsecondary Success initiative aims to stimulate and strengthen these local collaborations, seeking to both increase the rate and shorten the time within which residents finish higher education with a degree, certificate or other postsecondary credential.

Details: To learn more about the Municipal Leadership for Postsecondary Success initiative, visitwww.nlc.org/iyef or contact Marjorie Cohen at (202) 626-3052 or cohen@nlc.org.