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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National League of Cities have announced grants totaling $12 million to help boost college completion rates in four U.S. cities.

Awarded through the Communities Learning in Partnership initiative, an effort of the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, the three-year, $3 million grants were given to the Research Foundation of the City University of New York, the city and county of San Francisco, the city of Mesa in Arizona, and Riverside City College in California for programs and activities that align academic standards between high school and college, strengthen data systems, implement early assessment and college prep strategies, and create support systems designed to dramatically increase the number of students who earn a postsecondary degree or credential.

With support from the Gates Foundation and NLC, each city has already brought together mayors and other municipal leaders, K-12 superintendents, and community colleges over the past nine months to devise new ways of helping more students successfully complete an education beyond high school. The latest grants will support the implementation of those plans.

While community college enrollment across the country is at an all-time high, fewer than a quarter of community college students earn a degree within three years. The reasons include students not being academically ready for college-level work, having to juggle school and family responsibilities, and/or needing to work full-time while attending classes. At the same time, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that the U.S. labor market will be short three million college-educated workers over the next eight years unless there is a dramatic increase in the number of young adults who successfully complete college.

“We know that in today’s economic climate and labor market, a high school diploma is no longer enough,” said Allan Golston, president of the Gates Foundation’s United States Program. “We must not only ensure that young people have access to college; we must ensure that they go on to complete college and earn a degree or certificate with value in the workplace.”

“Four Cities Receive $12 Million to Improve College Graduation Rates.” Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Press Release 9/27/10.

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