A college degree is a valuable and growing necessity in today's world. A college degree can create opportunities for promotions, a better paying job or a new career. A college degree enhances an individual's earning power and qualifies them for more employment opportunities. A college degree prepares an individual to be a contributing member and leader of both local and global communities.
Yet, four out of five Philadelphians do not have a college degree of any sort. According to the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board (PWIB), however, there are some 80,000 individuals, 25 to 45 years old, who at one time began their college path and accumulated credits before dropping out.
It is these individuals that are the focus of My Degree Now, an initiative the College launched at the start of the fall term with funding provided by a gracious donor. My Degree Now will help Philadelphians who already have accomplished at least 30 transferrable college credits to earn their associate's degree without incurring tuition or fee costs. In some cases, the program also will help offset the cost of books. Participants must commit to completing their course work for an associate's degree within three years.
Since My Degree Now participants will have been away from the classroom for two or more years, the College will offer an array of support services to help them achieve their goal of a college degree. They can attend workshops that will help prepare them for the return to college. Acustomized educational plan will help them choose the classes they need for their intended course of study. Education and employment resources, such as tutoring, career counseling and career and job placement services, are also available. Students will also have the flexibility of taking classes at their convenience—during the day, in the evening or online.
According to that same 2007 report by the PWIB, Philadelphia falls well below the state average in the concentration of residents who have attained key educational benchmarks. To align with state averages, 16,000 more Philadelphia residents would need to earn an associate's degree, and 34,300 would need to earn a bachelor's degree.
We do not have an exact estimate of how many Philadelphians will qualify to take advantage of this pilot program. We will re-examine it periodically to see if it needs to be modified. If we have 100 initial participants, that's 100 more degree credentialed workers added to Philadelphia's workforce.
In August, we held a press conference at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (GPCC) to announce My Degree Now. We were joined by Mayor Nutter and officials from Wachovia, GPCC, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Gas Works. We urged the business community to join the College in support of this educational initiative and to spread the word about My Degree Now among their employees.
Research shows that having large numbers of college graduates in a region increases the region's economic growth. By providing educational opportunities, the College works to benefit residents and the city as a whole. When companies enhance their employees' knowledge, they grow and prosper, as does Philadelphia's economy.
Stephen M. Curtis