DETROIT, August 2, 2023 – The Rocket Community Fund, Detroit Regional Chamber, and Last Mile Education Fund today announced results of the Detroit Area Talent Fund pilot program, which was launched to address basic needs gaps for low-income individuals pursuing higher education in Detroit.
Through the fund, Detroit area residents of all ages received support in pursuing industry credentials, certificates, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees, closing graduation gaps, and paving the way for promising careers. Qualified students obtained emergency financial assistance mini grants, with a maximum of one $599 award per calendar year (or two awards per academic year), to overcome unexpected financial obstacles disrupting their educational progress.
This pilot was made possible by a $750,000 investment from the Rocket Community Fund.
“The Detroit Area Talent Fund is a reflection of our commitment to fostering sustainable career pathways for individuals across the Detroit area,” said Laura Grannemann, Executive Director of the Rocket Community Fund. “Everyone experiences unexpected expenses in school, but unanticipated bills should not prevent Detroit residents from getting the education and economic mobility opportunities they deserve.”
Last Mile Education Fund operated the Detroit Area Talent Fund, offering vital assistance to students from various fields to ensure they successfully complete their degree programs. During the pilot phase, the organization actively identified students facing obstacles in persisting toward their educational goals.
“It has been a privilege working with the Rocket Community Fund and the Detroit Regional Chamber to establish the Detroit Area Talent Fund,” said Ruthe Farmer, Founder and CEO of Last Mile Education Fund. “We believe when students can focus on academics and career preparation rather than mere survival, they are bound to achieve greater success.”
Pilot Program Results
The pilot program ran from Feb. through June. Key statistics from that four-month period include:
- 2,120 applications received, and of those, 1,251 were approved. Among the approved applications, nearly 850 were Detroit residents. The average requested amount per applicant was $832, resulting in a total of $700,766 in approved funds.
- A breakdown of applicants across different educational institutions revealed that 64% were enrolled in four-year colleges, while 27% were at two-year colleges. An additional 8% sought education from other institutions providing certifications and credentials, highlighting the program’s commitment to supporting various educational pathways.
- 45% of applicants requested financial assistance for tuition or institution-related expenses, underlining the program’s commitment to supporting the cost of education. Other identified needs included rent/housing (22%), bills (17%), transportation (8%), food (4%) and devices (3%).
- 71% of applicants identified as Black, 9% as Asian, 8% as Hispanic or Latinx, 4% as White and 3% as Middle Eastern/North African. An additional 3% identified with multiple races or ethnicities.
- 60% of applicants identified as female, 39% as male and 1% as non-binary.
Rocket Community Fund and Detroit Regional Chamber Double Down to Expand Program
The Rocket Community Fund is committed to building on the success of the pilot program and is collaborating with the Detroit Regional Chamber to identify additional resources to expand access to the Detroit Area Talent Fund.
“With our goal to boost our region’s educational achievements, we’ve learned that making it easier for people to pursue and finish their degree or certificate programs is the key. Removing barriers makes educational success much more attainable for everyone,” said Sandy K. Baruah, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber. “We look forward to working with the Rocket Community Fund to elevate this work.”
The potential expansion of the program builds on the Chamber’s broader education and talent strategy, which is focused on increasing access, ensuring success, and growing talent to provide opportunity to all residents throughout the region. The organization features several programming efforts — from administering the Detroit Promise Scholarship and Detroit Reconnect to initiatives like Detroit Drives Degrees — that are designed to prepare homegrown talent for the jobs of today and the future.
The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Education and Talent division has been dedicated to developing pathways for both traditional-aged students and adults, with a goal of increasing postsecondary attainment to 60% by 2030 and reducing the racial equity gap. By transforming service systems and directly supporting students, the Chamber aims to create sustainable changes in Detroit’s education landscape.
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About the Rocket Community Fund
The Rocket Community Fund aims to simplify complex and inequitable systems to ensure that every American has access to stable, healthy housing. It also invests in people and practices that provide meaningful opportunities for education and employment.
Through its For-More-Than-Profit model, the Rocket Community Fund recognizes that business and community are inextricably linked, and it purposefully harnesses team member talent, technology, policy advocacy and philanthropic resources to invest in comprehensive community development in Detroit and across the country.
Alongside financial investments, the Rocket Community Fund has organized Rocket Companies, Bedrock and other affiliated team members to provide more than 865,000 volunteer hours nationwide, including 430,000 in Detroit.
For more information, visit RocketCommunityFund.org.
About the Detroit Regional Chamber
Serving the business community for more than 100 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. As the voice for business in the 11-county Southeast Michigan region, the Chamber’s mission is carried out by creating a business-friendly climate and providing value for members. The Chamber leads the most comprehensive education and talent strategy in the state. The Chamber also executes the statewide automotive and mobility cluster association, MICHauto, and hosts the nationally recognized Mackinac Policy Conference. For more information, please visit detroitchamber.com
About Last Mile Education Fund
Last Mile Education Fund is a national non-profit organization addressing social mobility and tech diversity through investment in overlooked and under-resourced talent. Since 2020, Last Mile has supported thousands of students completing degrees in high-demand STEM fields. www.lastmile-ed.org