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Want more college graduates in the U.S.? One place to start is close to home.

Foundations and community groups are partnering with twenty American cities as part of a new effort aimed at increasing the number of residents with postsecondary credentials.

Foundations and community groups are partnering with twenty American cities as part of a new effort aimed at increasing the number of residents with postsecondary credentials.

Everything from technical and planning assistance to data tools and access to a network of education leaders and support groups will be made available free of cost, thanks to an investment from The Lumina Foundation, the nation’s largest private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials.

(Lumina is among the various funders of The Hechinger Report)

Lumina is also partnering with the Brookings Institution, American Chamber of Commerce Executives, Strive Together and other organizations to provide technical, planning and data collection support to the 20 cities.

For example, Lumina will be working with Pittsburgh Promise, a local community group in Pittsburgh that offers resources to adult learners. It will also cooperate with The Say Yes To Education Foundation in Syracuse, N.Y. which provides eligible students with guaranteed tuition assistance.

“I think that’s the cool thing about this program is that it’s respecting the cities’ ownership of all of this,” said Haley Glover, Lumina’s director of convening strategy, during a conference call on Wednesday. Glover emphasized that cities had different goals for their communities and that the foundation was open to helping them achieve.

“They are the ones doing the work. They are the ones leading the way. So, we want to be as supportive as we can.’’ Glover said.

Cities include Albuquerque, N.M.; Boston, Mass.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ind.; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Greensboro, N.C.; Houston, Texas; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Louisville, Ky.; Memphis, Tenn.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Providence, R.I.; Quad Cities, Iowa/Ill.; San Antonio, Texas; Santa Ana, Calif.; South Seattle/South King County, Wash. and Syracuse, N.Y.

Lumina President and CEO Jamie Merisotis said the new initiative arose from a belief the national debate around higher education comes from a “top-bottom perspective,’’ set by government sectors, education groups and foundations.

Yet local communities are the ones most affected economically by whether or not their residents have college credentials.

“So our intent is that if we work with employers and city leaders community based organizations, K- 12 schools, colleges universities and others is to provide resources, knowledge, expertise as well as financial support, and most importantly the ability to build relationships with other communities through creation of a network,” Merisotis said.

The cities chosen are the first cohort of a total of 75 cities Lumina hopes to add to next year. They were chosen based on three criteria: if they had set clear college goals, showed evidence of using practical methods to achieve these goals and had a focused population to work with.

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Aisha Asif writes for The Hechinger Report. A recent graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, she also holds a degree in biology teaching from Brooklyn College and completed her...

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