Best Practices
February 23, 2011

Greater Louisville, Inc. and 55,000 Degrees Working to Significantly Raise Degree Attainment in Kentucky

Main Image

Greater Louisville, Inc., Louisville’s regional chamber of commerce, is a vocal supporter of education reform in the region. The chamber is a founding member of 55,000 Degrees, an initiative intended to support the Greater Louisville Education Commitment to vastly improve education achievement in Kentucky.

The Greater Louisville Project, an organization that has benchmarked the city’s progress since merging city and county governments in 2003, consistently lists education as the most important driver for positive change. In previous years, the community united behind a number of education initiatives—including improving reading and graduation rates. To jumpstart a new level of community conversation, Mayor Jerry Abramson invited school superintendents, college and university presidents, and business and civic leaders to an Education Roundtable in late 2008. The challenge: to look at strategies to raise educational attainment—and create transformational change. At the same time, Business Leaders for Education, organized by Greater Louisville Inc., called for the urgent need to respond to global competitiveness challenges. By May 2010, the members of the Roundtable signed the historic Greater Louisville Education Commitment, which lists five key objectives:

  1. Create and support a college-going culture.
  2. Use the business community's unique points of leverage to accelerate attainment.
  3. Prepare students for success in college, career, citizenship, and life.
  4. Make postsecondary education accessible and affordable.
  5. Increase educational persistence, performance, and progress.

From these key objectives, 55,000 Degrees was formed in October 2010 as a public-private partnership intended to bring about 40,000 bachelor’s degrees and 15,000 associate degrees by 2020, thereby making Louisville significantly more competitive with a highly talented workforce.

Led by a board of directors from the education and business communities, 55,000 Degrees seeks to connect the community by working to reform Kentucky’s schools. It collects data about current academic achievement ( e.g., measuring how many high school graduates continue on to and their readiness for college-level work), and will use this information to advise policymakers on the best methods for reforming Kentucky’s education systems.

55,000 Degrees has received over $1 million in donations from local foundations to cover start-up costs. Notably, Greater Louisville, Inc. received $800,000 from the Lumina Foundation to address businesses helping working adults finish degrees. This grant will help develop a world class employee education delivery system — providing resources and tools for employers and employees to promote a college going culture and assist working adults to complete their degrees.

Learn more about Greater Louisville, Inc. and 55,000 Degrees.