The Kresge Foundation Grants $450,000 to Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation to Improve College Readiness, Access and Success

The Kresge Foundation and the Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation today announce new funding to launch a comprehensive plan and campaign to increase postsecondary education attainment in Southeast Michigan. The $450,000 grant from Kresge will urgently address a crisis, as part of the Chamber’s Forward Detroit regional economic development and competitiveness strategy.

Under the Chamber’s direction, the Detroit Drives Degrees Education Compact represents a collective commitment by leaders in education, business, philanthropy, government and the nonprofit community to address an ongoing barrier to economic development – the lack of residents without higher education credentials or college degrees compared to peer regions across the country. Increasing the number of students who remain enrolled and graduate from a college or university is a key focus of Detroit Drives Degrees, a program started by the Chamber in 2015 to increase college attendance and, ultimately, graduation.

According to Michigan’s Center for Educational Performance and Information, 73 percent of the region’s high school graduates enroll in college within 12 months of graduating but only 35 percent of those graduates earn a degree or credential within six years. The majority of high schools in the city of Detroit have graduating classes with less than 10 percent of students going on to earn a four-year credential, impacting the entire region.

“The Kresge Foundation’s grant allows the Chamber to both develop and implement a strategic blueprint to bolster postsecondary attainment throughout the region. Philanthropic partners like Kresge play a key role in helping us reach our goal of increasing individuals with postsecondary degrees from 43 to 60 percent by 2025,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Chamber.

“We want to help Detroit fulfill its workforce needs using its own homegrown talent,” said Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation. “Detroiters are hungry for the opportunity to get to work, and this initiative will help ensure they’re equipped with the skills, education and credentials required to do just that. We know a postsecondary education is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to move into the economic mainstream, and we’re proud to partner with the Chamber to help more Detroiters and people from across the region get that education.”

The Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council, led by Co-chairs Daniel Little, chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and Richard Rassel, chairman of Butzel Long, represent 35 cross-sectional leaders from the business, government and academic sectors throughout the region and will serve as signatories for the Compact.

During the next three years, the Chamber will work with the Leadership Council to designate regionwide improvement goals on key attainment metrics and will regularly track and publicize progress on these goals. The Detroit Drives Degrees Compact will address each stage of the talent development pipeline: college readiness, college access, college success and transition to the workforce.

The following will serve as key milestones in the development of the plan:

  • Publish an inaugural “State of Education” report to assess the Detroit region’s education ecosystem.
  • Develop and ratify benchmarks, which will form the basis of the Detroit Drives Degrees Compact. 
  • Cultivate public awareness and continued accountability for achieving the annual benchmarks through media, events and grassroots outreach.
  • Identify and implement key strategies to promote student success through the guidance of regional higher education institutions and other partner organizations.

Kresge’s support comes from its national Education Program and its Detroit Program.

Education Advocates: Reform, More Training Opportunities Needed to Sustain Detroit’s Momentum

Research shows that education is a driving force to foster a vibrant and strong economy. Detroit is no exception. That was a key message education advocates and leaders expressed during a panel discussion moderated by Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent at the Detroit Regional Chamber during the Investor Briefing: Attracting and Retaining Talent in Southeast Michigan in February.

“For the first time in forever, Detroit has a global macro trend working in its favor,” said Ned Staebler, vice president of economic development at Wayne State University and president and CEO of TechTown.

“Studies show people are moving to the urban centers across the world faster than ever before,” Staebler added.

With that trend showing no signs of slowing, one area of concern echoed by the panelists is the lack of accessible quality education, specifically among K-12 schools in Southeast Michigan.

“We have a lot going for us now in Detroit but it won’t mean anything if we don’t do something about our regional education system,” said Richard Rassel, Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council co-chair and Butzel Long chairman. “Our standards (for education) have slipped and we really need to get back to where we were.”

Education reform has been a longtime priority for the Chamber. Through its top-rated advocacy work at the local and state level to its management and collaboration on the Detroit Promise, the Chamber is committed to providing quality education to all students, regardless of income level.

Addressing diversification beyond traditional college tracks for students, attendees voiced the need for alternative options such as more vocational training and career programs.

“We have had to re-engage with community colleges to build partnerships to create a pipeline,” said Mikel Slater, vice president of human resources for Comcast. “Eighty percent of our workforce is technical and the other portion is mostly sales, so everyone is not university bound.”

Comcast is not alone in its effort to promote technical and skill-based employment opportunities.

Detroit Sewn, Magna International, Shinola and UAW-Ford National Programs Center, among others, currently employ participants of Henry Ford College’s (HFC) Industrial Sewing, Multi-Skilled Manufacturing and Mechatronic dual enrollment programs. HFC’s programs train individuals for entry-level jobs within industrial sewing, mechanical and robot maintenance.

Rassel encouraged more businesses and colleges to work collaboratively to help address the region’s talent gap.

“The business community has a big piece in fixing education and we must be prepared to shoulder the burden,” he said.

Stay tuned to the Chamber’s website for information on the next Investor Briefing date and time.

For more information on Forward Detroit, contact Marnita Hamilton at mhamilton@detroitchamber.com or 313.596.0310. To view a full list of investors and past Investor Exclusive content, visit our Investor Resources page.