March 22, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Four awardees recognized for their work in helping employees and residents earn a college degree
PHILADELPHIA, PA: Talent Greater Philly today announced the honorees of its Regional Challenge, a competition designed to recognize local companies, colleges, and nonprofits for their commitment to helping regional residents earn a college degree. AmeriHealth Caritas, District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, Rowan University, and Summer Search Philadelphia were honored for their outstanding efforts in support of educational advancement at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Growth Matters event Tuesday at WHYY.
National and regional data underscore the high and growing premium placed on college degrees by employers. According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, two thirds of all jobs will require a postsecondary credential by 2020. In Greater Philadelphia, only 40.6 percent of residents over the age of 25 currently have an associate’s degree or higher. The issue is a critical one for regional economic growth as well as individual prosperity. A worker with a bachelor’s degree earns an estimated 84 percent more than a worker without one – an average value of $2.8 million over the course of a lifetime.
Following a rigorous evaluation process, Talent Greater Philly selected the following Regional Challenge honorees for their dedication and innovative approaches to improving educational outcomes in the region:
Employer Honor: AmeriHealth Caritas
AmeriHealth Caritas developed its Education Assistance and Tuition Reimbursement Program to reduce the financial, scheduling, and geographic constraints that working adults frequently face when pursuing a college degree. The company’s tuition reimbursement program offers $3,500 annually to qualifying, full-time associates and $1,750 to part-time associates toward the cost of tuition for an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Partnerships with Drexel University, Peirce College, and College for America at Southern New Hampshire University have amplified and extended the company’s educational benefits. Through a collaboration with Drexel University, for example, AmeriHealth Caritas employees can earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree at a 10-40 percent discount off of the regular tuition rate throughout their course of study. Immediate family members are eligible for the same savings. At Peirce College, AmeriHealth Caritas associates have access to a choice of on-campus, on-site, or online classes as well as learning sessions and academic advising specifically tailored to the needs of non-traditional students.
“Like access to health care, we believe access to higher education makes our nation stronger,” said Paul A. Tufano, Chairman and CEO of AmeriHealth Caritas. “Our associates are doing perhaps the most decent, noble and important work we can do for our fellow Americans, removing barriers to quality health care for the poor and chronically ill. Working with our higher education partners, we help remove barriers that may stand in our associates’ way of pursuing higher education. Through our educational assistance and tuition reimbursement program, we invest in our associates’ hopes and dreams of earning a college degree, and create an even stronger AmeriHealth Caritas Family of Companies.”
Employer Collaboration: District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund
In 2004, District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund and Philadelphia University began a partnership to help entry-level workers earn stackable credentials in the behavioral healthcare field. The program’s design supports student retention and helps incumbent workers advance along the college-to-career pipeline in an accelerated timeframe. District 1199C offers union members upfront tuition assistance of up to $5,000 annually, and students receive counseling and coaching services throughout the duration of their studies.
Students entering the program begin with a behavioral health technician training course operated by District 1199C and then progress to Philadelphia University where they can earn a certificate in behavioral health, an associate’s degree in health and human services, a bachelor’s degree in behavioral health, and a master’s degree in trauma counseling. Since the program’s inception in 2004, Philadelphia University has awarded seventy-seven associate’s degrees, seventeen bachelor’s degrees, and one master’s degree to participating students.
“The 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund is extremely proud of the behavioral health degree pipeline that we have implemented for over ten years in partnership with Philadelphia University, graduating 77 frontline behavioral health workers with Associate Degrees, 17 with Bachelor Degrees, and one Master’s Degree; and, currently supporting 32 additional workers in the degree pipeline. We are thankful to our fifty plus contributing employer partners who create advancement opportunities for their employees, and to the District 1199C members and community residents who engage in our educational programs with the goal of advancing their careers. Congratulations to Stephen Ridley, Manager of the Fund’s Collegiate and Behavioral Health Programs, who expertly and compassionately guides our students to success.”
Higher Education Honor: Rowan University
In 2011, Rowan University created the “Completion Toolbox,” a bevy of programs and policies designed to help students in the later stages of their degree programs to persist in and complete their postsecondary education. Rowan designed the toolbox to ameliorate two dubious distinctions: (1) New Jersey exports more college students than any other state, and (2) bachelor’s degree rates in southern New Jersey are one-third lower than in the rest of the state.
Through reenrollment reforms, transfer credit policies, flexible scheduling, prior learning assessments, and degree audits – among many other initiatives – the university has improved retention, reduced stop-outs, and shortened graduation timelines, particularly among its Pell-eligible, first-generation, and minority students. One policy, for example, has streamlined the reenrollment process for students with gaps in matriculation, moving the function from the Admissions Office to the Retention Office and yielding a 57 percent increase in the number of students seeking to reenroll.
“There are dozens of colleges and universities in the Greater Philadelphia region, altogether educating hundreds of thousands of students. Unfortunately, national averages [indicate] that less than 35 percent will graduate in four years and less than 60 percent will graduate in six years,” said Dr. Ali Houshmand, president of Rowan University. “At Rowan, we are very proud of the programs and processes we have recently implemented and the impact they are having on the number of students graduating, and on time—well above national averages. Our success means more successful students and alumni, and a better prepared and larger educated workforce for our region.”
Higher Education Collaboration: Summer Search Philadelphia
In operation in the city since 2006, Summer Search Philadelphia equips low-income, first-generation college students with the life skills, experiences, and supports needed to access college and complete a degree. Summer Search’s long-term investment in students begins during the sophomore year of high school, when teachers and guidance counselors from five Philadelphia public and charter high schools can recommend students for the program.
The five-part Summer Search model provides students with (1) year-round, one-to-one mentoring during high school; (2) full scholarships to participate in two summer enrichment experiences; (3) individualized college access services; (4) college and career mentoring up to six years after high school graduation; and (5) access to a strong alumni network. Summer Search Philadelphia now serves 200 area students, and 71% of the program’s high school graduates have earned a four-year degree or are on track to do so.
“At Summer Search, we are dedicated to transforming what Philadelphia students from low-income communities believe is possible for themselves, as they work to become college-educated, socially-responsible leaders,” said Amanda Jefferson, Executive Director of Summer Search Philadelphia. “Summer Searchers, many of whom are first-generation college students, are receiving degrees at rates of nearly double their peers. Collaboration is core to our organizational philosophy and so we share this award with our excellent referral partners at local high schools who are pushing hard for our students every day, as well as the postsecondary and employer relationships that provide key opportunities for our students.”
ABOUT TALENT GREATER PHILLY
Talent Greater Philly was formed in 2010 to amplify the efforts of the region’s employers, institutions of higher education, and nonprofits engaged in programs and practices to increase college completion in Greater Philadelphia.
Talent Greater Philly is led by a Steering Committee of four organizations: Campus Philly, CEO Council for Growth, Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, and Graduate! Network. Other participating organizations include:
City of Philadelphia, Mayor’s Office of Education
Council for Adult and Experiential Learning
Community College of Philadelphia
District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund
Job Opportunity Investment Network
Moore College of Art & Design
Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
Philadelphia Academies, Inc.
Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable
Philadelphia Council for College and Career Success
Philadelphia Education Fund
Philadelphia Youth Network
Philadelphia Works, Inc.
Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia
University of Delaware
University of Pennsylvania
University of the Sciences
United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey