Lumina Foundation Invests in Degrees Matter!

Greensboro’s Degrees Matter! initiative, fostered in part by UNCG’s Office of Undergraduate Studies, is among 20 projects nationwide chosen by the Lumina Foundation as pilot programs. Those programs will each receive up to $200,000 from Lumina over the next three years.

Lumina is a private foundation working to increase the nation’s credentialed or degree-holding workforce to 60 percent by 2025. Degrees Matter! targets adult learners in the Triad — particularly those who already have some college credit — encouraging them to return to the classroom to complete degrees.

The project represents a partnership between the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, United Way of Greater Greensboro and Opportunity Greensboro. UNCG has been heavily involved in the project from the early stages, hosting a brainstorming forum for community leaders in 2012.

Steve Moore, director of UNCG’s Office of Transfer and Adult Student Academic Success, says Degrees Matter! will have a positive impact that goes far beyond the UNCG campus. “Community engagement has become such a large part of what we do here at the university, and this is just one more extension of that focus. It’s a way to convene institutions that might not really work together but should.”

Currently, only about 40 percent of the working-age population in Guilford County holds an associate’s degree or higher. About 21.3 percent of the working-age population, or about 67,688 adults, has some college credit but no degree.

Greater Greensboro will need about 40,000 new degrees or credentials to reach Lumina’s 60 percent goal by 2025. A recent Brookings Institute study ranked the Greensboro-High Point metro area, the 71st-largest metro area in the nation, 81st for disparities between employers’ needs and current educational levels.

“That’s a major gap,” Moore says.

Lumina plans to invest about $4 million in this first cohort, and hopes to scale up its efforts to include 75 U.S. cities. Monetary awards will be based on results. Pilot communities will work with Lumina and its national partners through 2016 to set goals, and develop action plans.

Moore says Degrees Matter! has already received $25,000 to cover planning expenses and expects to set goals and strategies by mid-February 2014. A local advisory team headed by Odell Cleveland, a Greensboro minister and co-founder of the Welfare Reform Liaison Project, has already begun meeting. The group is known as the Future Talent Council.

reposted from UNCG News & Features