Mesa Receives Grant to Improve College Graduation Rates
November 6, 2009 · Published By Editor
Mesa Community College, City of Mesa and Mesa Public Schools linking services to improve college graduation rates
Mesa, AZ - The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National League of Cities today announced that Mesa Community College (MCC), Mesa Public Schools (MPS) and the City of Mesa (COM) have been awarded a grant to boost college graduation rates by improving coordination between colleges, schools and cities. Mesa is one of seven government bodies awarded a grant.
The $250,000 grant is part of a National League of Cities initiative to help officials explore new and better ways in which they can work together to streamline services to low-income young adults in Mesa. The goal of the plan is to double the number of low-income young adults who earn a post-secondary degree or certificate with value in the marketplace by the time they reach age 26.
Enrollment at the nation’s 1,200 community colleges is at an all-time high, yet two-thirds of those attending will not graduate within three years. Often it’s not a question of effort. Rather, those students face multiple challenges: Many aren’t academically ready for college-level work; they juggle school and family responsibilities; and many must work fulltime while attending classes. Because the help that students need to overcome these obstacles comes from a range of agencies, it makes sense to explore new ways to coordinate that assistance.
“When our students succeed, we succeed as a city and a community,” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said. “Partnering with MCC and MPS to help low-income students attend and succeed in college is a great way to build a better community.”
The grants announced today will support nine-month collaborative planning efforts in each of the seven cities. This planning grant is the first phase in a process that enables the three organizations to apply for a three-year, $3 million implementation grant from the Gates foundation.
Mesa brings many assets to this initiative, including new and enthusiastic leadership, existing collaborative organizations, and a highly-engaged, networked community that brings multiple perspective to the planning table. The city has a singular system with one municipal government, one unified school district, and one community college. While acknowledging many financial challenges and a fragmented approach to youth development, Mesa has the political will to affect necessary change to increase post-secondary student success rates.
“I am extremely pleased that this grant will enable MCC to work together with the City government and our community partners even more closely to increase post-secondary completion rates,” said Dr. Shouan Pan, MCC President. “This grant will raise the bar for all of us, and we will work collaboratively to create a plan that is viewed as a national model.”
In today’s global economy, a college degree or advanced training beyond high school is required for the best-paying jobs. Despite a near record-high unemployment, community colleges offer a bright outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted recently that, over the next decade, jobs for community college graduates will grow nearly twice as fast as the national average.
But those jobs will only be available to those who graduate.
“With today’s dwindling resources, community leaders have an obligation to align their programs in ways that will maximize results,” said Donald Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities. “Efforts to boost graduation rates will benefit students, our local employers and, ultimately, society at large.”
For decades, educators and our national policies have focused on getting more students into college, but we’ve done little to ensure they graduate once they get there.
“Our efforts to get more students to college are wasted when we don’t follow up with the supports they need to graduate,” said Hilary Pennington, the director of Education, Postsecondary Success and Special Initiatives at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “In today’s economy, workers need advanced training to earn good wages, and that training comes with a college degree.”
“We look forward to working with the City of Mesa and Mesa Community College as we develop appropriate educational opportunities for the young adults in our city,” said Dr. Michael Cowan, MPS Superintendent.
The other community colleges and city agencies that received grants include Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio; Florida State College at Jacksonville; Mesa Community College in Mesa, AZ; City of Phoenix, AZ; Research Foundation of the City University of New York; Riverside (CA) City College; and Interagency Council on Youth, City and County of San Francisco.
Source: City of Mesa