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December 04, 2013

Boston is among 20 American cities that committed Wednesday to new higher education attainment goals.

The city is partnering with Lumina Foundation in a new effort designed to increase the number of local residents who earn post-secondary credentials. (WGBH’s On Campus reports are made possible with support from Lumina Foundation and the Davis Educational Foundation.)

Boston and other cities will be eligible for up to $200,000 over three years. The funds will be tied to education achievement goals, such as the city’s college completion rates.

“The new bench-line for the majority of Americans has to be a high-quality, post-secondary credential,” said Lumina Foundation President Jamie Merisotis.

Merisotis noted that very few city leaders have been engaged in postsecondary education, in part because it isn't included in their budgets. But he said that kind of disengagement is changing because more and more jobs require some kind of college degree.

“You’ve now got a succession of mayors who have made postsecondary education a priority,” Merisotis said. “And the advice that those mayors are giving to each other is that you’ve got to be a convener of all the players – the employers, the civic leaders, the community-based organizations and the educational institutions – and be a driver of those conversations.”

At Harvard University’s Institute of Politics this week, more than 25 newly-elected mayors from across the country are driving this conversation. Many of them, including Pittsburgh’s Bill Peduto, said increasing college access for lower-income and non-traditional students is critical to their city’s economic development.

“It’s not only spinning off jobs that come through the universities, but it’s the innovation that is starting small businesses,” Peduto said, after he learned Lumina was giving money to Pittsburgh.

At a time when the cost of education has become a detriment to most people, Peduto said his city will use the funds to expand a program that promises a scholarship to everyone who graduates from Pittsburgh’s public schools.

Foundations are increasingly setting policy for cities and institutions that graduate America's future workforce. Lumina, which is based in Indianapolis, has set a national goal to increase the percentage of Americans with college degrees or credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

Other cities include: Albuquerque, N.M.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ind.; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Greensboro, N.C.; Houston, Texas; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Louisville, Ky.; Memphis, Tenn.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Providence, R.I.; Quad Cities, Iowa/Ill.; San Antonio, Texas; Santa Ana, Calif.; South Seattle/South King County, Wash. and Syracuse, N.Y.

confronting cost, college costs, higher ed, increasing access and success

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