These Higher Ed Funders Are Backing "Talent Hubs" to Close Gaps in Education and Equity

 photo:  Rawpixel.com/shutterstock

photo:  Rawpixel.com/shutterstock

Readers of this space are no doubt familiar with the Lumina Foundation's goal to increase the proportion of college-educated adults in the U.S. The Indianapolis-based funder has set a goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with some type of higher education credential—a degree or a certificate—to 60 percent by the year 2025.

Recently, Lumina, along with the Kresge Foundation, recognized more than a dozen cities and communities across the country for their efforts to create environments that attract and retain talented adults, especially among low-income men and women, students of color and first-generation college students. Lumina calls these communities "talent hubs" for their commitment to reducing gaps in educational outcomes and promoting equity.

The 17 Talent Hub cities designated by Lumina are Albuquerque, Austin, Boston, Cincinnati, Columbus (IN) Dayton (OH), Denver, Fresno, Los Angeles, Louisville, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Racine, Shasta County in northern California and Tulsa.

Central to Lumina's strategy for achieving its 2025 goal is to focus on three critical populations:

  • Young men and women ages 18 to 22, the traditional age range for college students
  • Older adults with some college experience who left school before completing a degree or certificate
  • Adults with no formal education beyond high school

Each Talent Hub city designated by Lumina will focus its efforts on one of these three populations. Over the next 42 months, each Talent Hub will receive $350,000 in grant funding to support efforts to increase higher educational attainment. Each Talent Hub city has a lead partner organization—usually a foundation —and a postsecondary institutional partner. Together, these partners collaborate to develop a strategy that is customized to meet that community's needs.

In Boston, for example, funds will go to the Boston Foundation, a local leader in workforce development, to support its Success Boston initiative, which focuses on young men and women 18 to 22 years of age to create pathways at Bunker Hill Community College and University of Massachusetts at Boston. In Austin, the Quality of Life Foundation in the Austin Chamber of Commerce will partner with Western Governors University and Austin Community College to focus on adults with some college experience, with particular emphasis on Hispanic, low-income, and unemployed/underemployed adults in the area.

Lumina's president and CEO, Jamie Merisotis, called the Talent Hub cities "creative and entrepreneurial engines" that are crucial to meeting the growing demand for a better educated work force. The Talent Hub program aligns perfectly with Lumina's overall strategy, but also aligns well with Kresge's education program, which emphasizes strengthening urban higher education to improve access for traditionally underrepresented populations, including low-income, first-generation, and students of color.

 Lumina's Haley Glover explains the thinking behind Talent Hubs in the video below.