Newark Among 35 Communities Invited to Join Lumina Foundation Program to Increase Postsecondary Education Attainment

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Newark, New Jersey is among 35 new U.S. communities announced recently in a new cohort of Lumina Foundation’s community-based postsecondary education attainment strategy. The strategy was designed to help communities and regions dramatically increase the number of local residents with postsecondary credentials. The collaborative effort connects participating cities with significant technical and planning assistance, data tools, flexible funding, and the ability to customize attainment plans that will best suit each community’s needs and the well-being of its residents.

“Research shows a direct correlation between thriving cities and education beyond high school,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president and CEO. “Increased attainment delivers stronger local economies, greater individual earning power and better quality of life. Every community in America wants that, and we’ve designed this work to give civic leaders the tools they need to be successful.”

Lumina’s goal for this work is to mobilize all sectors in a community to improve postsecondary attainment. Communities will partner with Lumina and national thought leaders through 2016 to establish attainment goals. Organizations will work with national partners to develop an action plan focused on reaching the attainment goal to increase the percentage of high-quality credentials held by community residents.

In Newark, community mobilization toward this end will be conducted by the Newark City of Learning Collaborative (NCLC), an alliance of partners from across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors whose overarching goal is to increase postsecondary degree attainment from 18% of Newark residents to 25% by 2025.  Coordinated by Rutgers University–Newark’s Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies, the NCLC will adopt intervention strategies that target specific populations as well as critical issues. The goal of “25% by 2025” was originally identified through a citywide planning effort and codified in the City of Newark’s Master Plan in 2012.

“The NCLC connects and builds on work that many partners in Newark have undertaken across the pre-kindergarten through college pathways,” said Rutgers University–Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor.  “Broadening and strengthening those pathways is critical because postsecondary education not only is the proven path to achieving individual and collective prosperity, but it is vital as a catalyst for bringing diverse groups together to work across difference, innovate, and cultivate the skills essential for democracy to thrive.  With Lumina’s support our collaborative will strengthen and build out the robust, cross-sector network needed to increase student success at Essex County College and transition to New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers–Newark, aligning efforts to develop the full breadth and depth of Newark’s magnificently diverse talent pool.”

New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) President Joel Bloom underlined the importance of leveraging the extensive experience of Newark’s colleges and universities to increase educational attainment. “We have strong relationships among the higher education institutions in NCLC and strong networks across the community that can be catalysts for significantly increasing college completion.  NJIT, for example, is the largest provider of pre-college programs in New Jersey.  Lumina’s support of NCLC will help us leverage that expansive network and deep experience with the strengths of our partner institutions.”

Irene Cooper-Basch, executive officer of the Victoria Foundation, an NCLC partner, said, “Lumina Foundation’s recognition validates Newark’s organizational and institutional partners who are sharing strategies, data, ideas, and resources to increase success rates for college retention and completion.  As Chair of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, I’m gratified to see funders working in partnership with the public sector and other entities toward a common goal of postsecondary attainment for 25% of Newark residents by 2025.”

Essex County College President Gale Gibson said, “The Lumina award will help the Newark City of Learning Collaborative tackle pressing postsecondary issues.  Essex County College will play a pivotal role since we enroll over 4,000 Newark Public high school graduates each year with approximately 87% needing remediation in math and/or English. When they come to Essex, we provide these local high school students with a top level education, high quality degrees, and an array of programs aimed to improve college readiness and career development skills."

Progress toward Lumina’s goal will be measured by credentials earned after high school, including certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees held by local residents. The cities selected have already demonstrated momentum in advancing attainment agendas, and this effort aims to expand and deepen their work.

 “It is our intention that Lumina’s support will bolster the great work already being done in our Partnership cities, improving results there and showing cities across the country just how transformational education can be for communities’ social, economic and civic strength,” said Haley Glover, strategy director at Lumina Foundation overseeing this work.

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. Lumina’s partners in this effort will provide guidance to the cities as they develop goals and action plans. The national thought-leadership organizations that communities will have access to through this work include: the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, the Brookings Institution, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, DCA Inc., Excelencia in Education, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, the Michigan College Access Network, the National College Access Network, the National League of Cities, the OMG Center, the Say Yes to Education Foundation, and Strive Together.

“We are pleased to partner with Lumina Foundation to raise educational attainment in communities across the country,” said Clifford M. Johnson, executive director of the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families at the National League of Cities. “Mayors and other city leaders know that by collaborating across sectors to boost college completion rates, they are helping to boost the economic development of the city, and the quality of life and well-being of their neighborhoods and families.”

The second cohort of communities includes: Akron, Ohio; Albany, N.Y.; Austin, Texas; Berkeley, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; Cleveland, Ohio; Coachella Valley, Calif.; Columbia, S.C.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colo.; Detroit, Mich.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Hartford, Conn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Kansas City, Mo.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Nashville, Tenn.; New Hampshire Region; New York, N.Y.; Newark, N.J.; Northwest Indiana Region; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Portland, Ore.; Richmond, Va.; Rio Grande Valley Region; Salt Lake City, Utah; Savannah, Ga.; Spokane, Wash.; Southwest Florida Region; Washington, D.C., and Winston-Salem, N.C.

“Education is the key force behind prosperity,” said David Rattray, senior vice president of Education & Workforce Development at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and President of UNITE-LA. “We in Los Angeles are very excited to be a part of this national effort, not only to leverage the resources and expertise the Partnership provides, but to share what we know with other communities working on the same challenges.”

Lumina plans to invest approximately $5.6 million into the second cohort and over $13 million directly to communities over the course of the program. Each community will be eligible for an allocation of $160,000 over a 2.5-year period, which will be tied to achievement of goals.

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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:


Media contact:
Lucia Anderson Weathers
Lumina Foundation

Peter Englot
Rutgers University–Newark