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Jim Guidry Commentaries
Harris County
Center for Houston's Future
News Release
Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Houston region’s disappointing ranking of 94 among 100 US metropolitan areas by a recent Brookings Institute study did not catch the Houston area off guard. The study addresses the gap between what employers want and the degrees conferred by our educational institutions.  Business leaders, educators and nonprofits from around the region were already collaborating to narrow the gap through the initiative and leadership of the Center for Houston’s Future, the region’s think tank.

The Center for Houston’s Future expanded its work to get more people to complete their college degrees (both 2- & 4-year) with the Talent Dividend Summit held September 22 at the University of Houston. Business leaders, including El Paso Corporation, Siemens, Silver Eagle, Amegy Bank, CB&I, ConocoPhillips, Walter P. Moore and others, comprised one third of the 100 people attending the summit; area educators and nonprofits made up the rest. 

National nonprofit CEO’s for Cities launched Talent Dividend nationwide in 2009 to encourage higher college graduation rates in metropolitan areas.  The Center for Houston’s Future partnered on the project as education is one of its long standing program priorities for the Houston region.  Fifty-seven other metropolitan areas are competing for a $1-million dollar prize to be awarded to the area with the greatest increase in the number of postsecondary degrees by the end of 2013.

The Talent Dividend is what the 10-county Houston area gets when it raises the college graduation rate by just 1% by 2013 and represents $4.2 billion additional dollars a year into the local economy or about $1900 to $2,290 per year for the average household.

Among the actions adopted by the summit attendees to increase degree completion are:

  • Businesses – Identify those who have almost completed their degree and cultivate college-attainment awareness within their organizations and throughout their networks; expand or create tuition reimbursement and mentoring programs; establish or enhance relationships with colleges and nonprofits that can provide work and/or financial support; and promote work experience for college credits.
  • Universities - Identify drop-outs, almost completers, and students needing academic support early on; focus on scholarship support; publicize reverse transfer requirements; provide tutoring and utilize online instruction.
  • Community Colleges - Identify almost completers and provide them with assistance; market the value of an Associate’s Degree; and utilize scholarship funds
  • ISDs - Follow up with dual credit students to identify those close to earning an Associate’s degree; increase the number of dual credit students; and strengthen relationships with community colleges
  • Nonprofits – Working with colleges and universities to help near completers who are returning to college and help them with mentoring and information about career paths; develop a communication strategy; and investigate industries in which near completers might work.
  • Public Relations – Draft peer-driven messages with information on available resources for near completers and transmit them through social media; use success stories for encouragement; utilize public service announcements in collaboration with the National Ad Council; and, bring in marketing experts from area universities and businesses to assist with outreach; and create a branded web portal. 
During the next weeks and months these ideas will become reality and regular reports will be published.  For more information contact the Center for Houston’s Future, at 713.844.9303 or info@futurehouston.org. See Talent Dividend at ceosforcities.org/talent.



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