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Improved education outcomes can make the grade in our region

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Lesley Grady, senior vice president, community, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Lesley Grady

By Lesley Grady, senior vice president, community, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

In 2016, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta launched Impact Areas with measurable objectives as a way to focus our financial, partnership and advocacy investments in the Atlanta region, backed by a dashboard that captures baseline values and reveals those, transparently, to our region. One area of our focus is Education.  

In metro Atlanta, too many students are not achieving the academic success needed to thrive in work and life. Educational attainment has been shown to predict health, mortality, teen childbearing, marital outcomes and even crime. Metro Atlanta’s educational challenges are even bleaker for students from minority populations and students living in poverty: even when these students have high academic potential and performance, they are statistically less likely to have access to quality early and K-12 education and less likely to enroll in and complete certification beyond high school.

Only two states in the U.S. do not provide any state-funded, needs-based financial assistance for students pursuing post-secondary education, Georgia is one of these. Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship provides funding for students who meet specific, merit-based criteria. Yet the data – and our collective personal experience – shows that the “C” student who falls short of HOPE criteria has an equal propensity for success in school and in life.

Of the metro Atlanta students who graduated from high school in 2015, more than half did not enroll in post-secondary education. Further, projections based on 2010 data indicate that of those who did enroll immediately after graduation, only 30% will earn a degree or certificate within five years. The two major reasons for this low completion rate are 1) inadequate academic preparation and 2) lack of financial resources for tuition and other basic needs, averaging $500-1,200 per student annually.  

Education unlocks opportunity’s door. It is well documented that through the transom of skills, knowledge and understanding, especially for low-income and newcomer families, comes the self-sufficiency, personal fulfillment and civic participation that contribute to strong educational outcomes that lead to strong economic and social systems. Yet the lack of access to small financial sums perpetuates intergenerational poverty and shapes the destiny of far too many Georgia residents.

We can fix this. The Foundation works with coalitions across the philanthropic, business, civic and educational sectors to address this issue. And, for students seeking financial support to attain their dream of post-secondary education, the Community Foundation offers a number of scholarships. Most will be open for applications in December; check our website to learn more.

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