Working together to change who gets degrees in America and how they get them.
College Unbound (CU) was founded in Providence, RI, with a mission to reinvent the higher education experience for working, under-resourced adults seeking a non-traditional path to earning a college degree and/or continue higher education. One of CU’s founding board members, current chair and native Philadelphian Wendell Pritchett, recognized this could be a good model to replicate. Pritchett, a renowned leader and innovator of higher education in the region and nationally, shared the idea with another education innovator, David Bromley; together, they approached Barra for Catalyst funding to bring the concept to Philadelphia.
Together with the board and program coordinators like Bromley, Pritchett is helping to make sure CU is organized around what the students are interested in, as opposed to what the colleges want people to learn. Pritchett believes most institutions of higher education tell students what they should study; they tell students what classes they should take; and they expect students to organize their lives around what the university thinks students should learn. In fact, the way to get people excited about learning is to focus on what students are interested in – that’s why they refer to CU as a “student-ready college.”
Since Barra seeks to test novel approaches to entrenched or emerging problems in an effort to push the boundaries and inspire transformative change, they awarded a Catalyst grant to adapt the original CU model in the Philadelphia market, where there is an increasing number of adults facing barriers to achieving post-secondary success.
The CU model focuses on developing and nurturing partnerships with organizations that are part of the fabric of the city. In Philadelphia, CU is now building partnerships with some of the city’s most critical institutions for residents seeking to improve their quality of life, including the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) and The School District of Philadelphia. CU is one of many nonprofits Barra supports to further its overarching goal to advance innovation that strengthens communities in Philadelphia.