Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award Helps Launch College Completion Effort

Carnegie Corporation of New York’s $500,000 award honoring excellence in higher education leadership has been used by a 2009 winner to launch a new fund to support students’ degree completion.

Brit Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland (USM) and a winner of Carnegie Corporation’s annual Academic Leadership Award, has used the foundation’s grant to establish a fund aimed at increasing Maryland's college-educated population to 55 percent by 2020 from today’s rate of 41.1percent. 

“In an increasingly globalized world, a high-quality education that leads to a college degree is the key to developing the critical skills of creativity and the ability to think deeply and analytically,” said Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York.  “Hence, we must not only increase college completion rates, but we must ensure that a college degree stands for quality.”

Gregorian continued, “Brit Kirwan’s efforts to increase college completion rates in Maryland remind us that democracy and excellence are not mutually exclusive.  Our hopes for preserving a vibrant democracy and the promise of social mobility that lie at the heart of the American dream depend on more students earning their college degrees.”

A Matter of Degrees: USM Leading the Way in College Completion will build a strong pipeline of students prepared to attend college, particularly among Maryland's growing population of minority and disadvantaged students; increase opportunities for student success after admission; and support degree completion for those who have left school due to financial need.

Using the Carnegie Corporation grant award as its base, the USM Board of Regents has raised an additional $2 million toward the A Matter of Degrees fund.

In addition to Kirwan, the 2009 Award recipients were Leon Botstein, President of Bard College; Scott Cowen, President of Tulane University and Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania.

The Academic Leadership Award recognizes higher education leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in undergraduate education, both teaching and research; the development of major interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary undergraduate and graduate programs that aim to bridge the gulf between the theoretical and the practical; university outreach to their respective communities and cooperative efforts with business, civic, and education leaders on initiatives such as K-12 school reform; and, international initiatives.

Carnegie Corporation of New York is working with partners to dramatically increase the number of young adults with a college degree or credential.  The foundation is supporting state-level efforts to implement a range of strategies that will bring needed change to improve completion. 

The foundation’s efforts are driven by a postsecondary degree completion rate that falls woefully short of the nation’s needs and potential.  Less than forty percent of young adults hold an associate or bachelor’s degree, and substantial racial and income gaps persist.  According to labor market projections, by 2020, six of ten jobs will require a quality postsecondary degree or credential.  Therefore, to ensure their success, six of ten young Americans ages 25 to 34 must achieve this basic threshold.  Carnegie Corporation has supported organizations including Complete College America which works with states to adopt strategies and practices that will increase college completion.