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400 MPS Grads Eligible for $5 Million in College Scholarships from The Degree Project®

Great Lakes Set to Follow Through on Promise Made to Freshmen in 2011

Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) recently announced its Class of 2015 has earned a record $39 million in scholarships. Thanks to The Degree Project®, some of these graduates are now eligible for more than $5 million in additional scholarships.

Recognizing the critical role creating more college graduates has on the economic future of Wisconsin, Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation partnered with MPS to create a promise scholarship program. The Degree Project was created to not only encourage more MPS students to graduate from high school, go on to college, and earn a degree or certificate, but also to produce evidence as to whether promise scholarships can in fact help achieve these goals.

The Degree Project was launched in 2011 with a promise made to half of that year's freshman class: if you graduate from MPS with a 2.5 or higher GPA and an attendance record of at least 90 percent, and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), you'll receive up to $12,000 to help pay for your education at a two- or four-year nonprofit Wisconsin college. Four years later, MPS and Great Lakes are celebrating the students who have met the graduation requirements of the program and now stand to receive scholarships that will help make college a reality.

"The Degree Project was designed to show students a path to college when they first enter high school, and to make a financial commitment to help them pay for it, said Richard D. George, President and Chief Executive Officer of Great Lakes. "Today we applaud the 418 graduates who have taken crucial steps to prepare for success in college, and look forward to making good on our promise by providing more than $5 million in scholarships."

An independently funded evaluation is being conducted by researchers at Tulane University to determine whether The Degree Project actually increased the rate that students graduated from high school and went on to college. Many communities have established promise programs (e.g., Kalamazoo Promise, Pittsburgh Promise) with a pledge to help their residents pay for college, but have done so based on good intentions rather than hard evidence. The Degree Project study is the country's first randomized trial of a promise program. By following The Degree Project students from high school through college, the research team will assess the effect promise scholarships have on college preparation, enrollment and degree completion.

"Great Lakes is a valued community partner with innovative ideas on how to encourage more MPS students to graduate and continue their education beyond high school," said Dr. Darienne Driver, MPS Superintendent. "We are eager to learn the results from The Degree Project, which will help us refine efforts to achieve increased graduation rates, the number of students attending college, and the number of college scholarships awarded across the district."

Great Lakes and others in the college access community also are looking forward to the results of this research, George noted. "Our goal is to learn whether promise programs are an effective tool to help increase college access and completion. The results of this evaluation will help inform Great Lakes' future grantmaking efforts to get more students to and through college."

For more information about The Degree Project, visit degreeproject.com.


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