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Kresge Gives More Than $1 Million To Help Double the Number of College Graduates in Michigan by 2025

General Foundation News

With only one in three working-age adults in Michigan possessing a college degree, effort will help to strengthen the workforce and make the state more economically competitive.

Troy, Michigan – The Kresge Foundation of Troy, Michigan, has thrown its grantmaking support squarely behind the state’s efforts to make postsecondary education more accessible, particularly among low-income and/or first-generation college students, by awarding a grant of more than $1 million to the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), a nonprofit organization that works to increase college participation and success rates statewide.

MCAN will use a portion of the grant to help communities set up their own local college-access networks. At the local level, the money will be used to bring together community leaders from education, business, nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, and government so they can work together to plan, start up and expand their respective networks.

Local college-access networks coordinate a gamut of educational support services, from high-school course planning and ACT test prep to assistance with the college application process and financial aid advising.  Within their communities, they will promote a college-going culture and serve as the leader, advocate, and authority on college-access issues.

The balance of the Kresge grant will be used to challenge local community foundations to raise additional money to sustain the new networks.

“Kresge’s role is very catalytic,” says Brandy Johnson-Faith, college-access coordinator in the Policy Division of the Office of Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm. “This grant funding will not only support the creation of many community-based college-access networks, but also will leverage existing community resources.”

To achieve the best results, grantees will be asked to assemble diverse, high-quality community coalitions ─ drawn from K-12, higher education, philanthropy, government, business, and the nonprofit sector ─ that can work collaboratively to increase Michigan’s college participation and success rate.

“This is a first-of-its-kind grant for Kresge, which is promoting college-access networks by strengthening the grassroots organizations that are performing this important work,” says Caroline Altman Smith, Kresge’s Education Program officer. “Making the grant money available through the Michigan College Access Network is an effective way to get much-needed dollars out into the state quickly.”

Kresge’s overarching values criteria include creating opportunities for low-income and underserved populations to improve their quality of life and participate more fully in the economic mainstream. Providing access to postsecondary education is one way to achieve this, Smith adds.

Gov. Granholm unveiled the Michigan College Access Network initiative during a formal announcement at the 2009 Governor’s Education Summit in Lansing last spring. She laid out an ambitious goal to increase the proportion of Michigan residents with high-quality college degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025 as part of a continuing effort to transform the state’s economy through postsecondary education.

This effort also aligns with President Obama’s goal for America to regain its standing as the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. Currently, only 32 percent of Michigan’s 5.2 million working-age adults, ages 25 to 64, and 34 percent of young adults, ages 25 to 34, hold at least a two-year college degree.

“Our college-age population in Michigan is decreasing with the out-migration of residents,” Johnson-Faith reports. “Overall, the number of college graduates, ages 18 to 24, is expected to decline 8.9 percent by 2030.”

More troublesome are statistics that show the state’s college retention and graduation rates already lag the national average and are significantly lower for low-income and first-generation students and students of color. “There is a huge, unacceptable disparity between the percentage of white residents (58 percent) and black residents
(32 percent) who have four-year degrees in Michigan,” she explains.

MCAN hopes to reverse these trends by coordinating coalitions of community leaders who will plan and eventually launch local college-access networks. Special emphasis will be given to organizing and marshalling community resources to help lower the barriers to college access.

“We know that if students are better-prepared academically and find the right institutional fit, they are less likely to drop out,” Johnson-Faith remarks. “College-access network formation is a strategy that targets both college participation and degree attainment.”

MCAN will use $500,000 in Kresge funding to provide broad-based community coalitions with planning grants (up to $8,000), start-up grants (up to $50,000), and expansion grants (up to $25,000) to support local college-access initiatives at different points in their development cycle. These organizations will offer services such as mentoring, high-school course planning, and financial-aid advising, to middle-school and high-school students, as well as to adults seeking college degrees.

The balance of the $1,015,000 grant will go to support community foundation challenge grants (up to $50,000). This dollar-for-dollar matching of funds raised by community foundations is intended to encourage them to partner with, strengthen, and sustain their emerging networks. To qualify, a community foundation must already have received, or partnered with the recipient of, a planning, start-up, or expansion grant from the Michigan College Access Network. The Council of Michigan Foundations will administer this portion of the program.

MCAN also requires all applicants to integrate the KnowHow2Go campaign messages into their programming in order to be eligible for grants. Lumina Foundation for Education, the American Council on Education, and the Ad Council, working with implementation and intermediary partners, launched KnowHow2Go in January 2007. The program assists states in developing sustainable, high-quality student service and advocacy networks that encourage low-income and first-generation students in the eighth grade through the tenth grade to prepare for college.

In Michigan, the Michigan College Access Network will support local network organizers by providing professional training, technical assistance, and other resources and services. It also will link Michigan’s networks to the National College Access Network.

“President Obama wants America to regain its prominence in education,” Johnson-Faith says. “That’s our goal here in Michigan as well.”