Partnership for College Completion

Background

The Partnership for College Completion, a nonprofit funded by leading foundations and individuals, is the only organization in Illinois working with colleges and universities to promote practices, programs and systems-change to ensure that low-income, first-generation students of color graduate from college. Through direct engagement with college leaders and policymakers, and through breakthrough research, the Partnership seeks to raise awareness and galvanize action to ensure that colleges are “student ready” to close the achievement gap in race and income in Illinois by 2025. The Partnership believes that Illinois can be a national leader in higher education access and achievement.

Our Work

We began collaborating with the founding executive director and his leadership team shortly after launch of the organization to begin developing all branding and media relations activities and to support community outreach for the introduction of the ground-breaking Illinois Equity in Attainment Initiative (ILEA). College signatories to ILEA commit to eliminating racial and socioeconomic graduation disparities and significantly increase completion rates. Our workwith the Partnership and collegesincluded playing a central role in naming the new initiative; developing brand awareness, messaging and an FAQ; building local, state, and national media lists and contacts at foundations and community organizations; developing story lines, policy briefs, and press releases; and carrying out all communications, including social media.

Following the launch of ILEA, we worked closely with the Partnership to prepare the release of three research reports identifying barriers to access and completion for Black, Latinx, and rural students in Illinois. Our involvement in the rollout and promotion of each report included helping craft executive summaries; developing branding for the suite of reports; building out and executing all media plans, with targeted strategies for each report; and, helping determine opportunities to demonstrate thought leadership through Op-Eds and speaking engagements.

Impact

The membership of ILEA includes nearly 30 colleges and universities in Illinois, each of which is developing specific plans to eliminate degree completion gaps between Black and white students, between Latinx and white students, and between Pell recipients and non-Pell students. A special committee of the Illinois legislature began studying major modifications in remedial education for incoming college freshmen – a proven impediment to graduation. Media placements throughout Chicago and the state generated wide awareness of access and completion inequities. Release of the research reports, pinpointing cost and college underfunding as key opportunity hurdles for low-income students, generated further attention, and played an important part in the successful advocacy campaign to increase state financial support for public colleges.