Innovation and Collaboration in Higher Education
A common refrain among nonprofit leaders is: “We have a great idea, but how do we get it to market and take it to scale?” Such was the case of Graduate!Philadelphia. The brainchild of two savvy individuals, Graduate!Philadelphia was conceived in the midst of city-wide buzz about retaining young people who relocate to Philadelphia to attend college. While this was an important goal, they recognized the importance of “growing our own” college graduates from among city residents, given Philadelphia’s low college graduation rates and increasing population of adults who started but never completed college. Graduate!Philadelphia’s founders envisioned focusing their effort and attention to supporting local residents’ pursuit of higher education. They turned to Fairmount for support in developing a sustainable business plan that would make their vision a reality.
Adult learners have needs that differ from those of traditional college students. Fairmount helped convene college administrators and deans of admission to design the nuts and bolts of Graduate!Philadelphia. Together, we determined program components that were user-friendly for adults, such as access centers in convenient locations and on the web. We also facilitated the working agreement of the operating partners, creating memoranda of understanding to formalize their relationships and the management and governance structures to support them. Fairmount also established a sustainable financial model and helped secure funding from philanthropy and the public sector.
Since its founding, Graduate!Philadelphia has had astounding local success helping Philadelphians get back into college and providing the academic support to see them through graduation. Graduate!Philadelphia has also received national recognition, as its model for supporting adult learners has been—and continues to be—replicated in cities across the country.