The La Crosse Investment


If tomorrow a rule came down that Promise programs could no longer use the word ‘Promise,’ what would be the replacement? In my mind, one word sums up the initiative: investment. The Pittsburgh Investment. Or the New Haven Investment.

The word comes up a lot. How many funders have heard, “It is critical that business invests in the community?” Or Promise Scholars working too many hours in a low-wage job, “You need to protect this investment!”

But up in La Crosse, Wis., the word has even deeper meaning. Recipients of the La Crosse Promise aren’t just required to live within city limits, they must invest in the city’s most challenged neighborhoods.

“We’re trying to attract market-rate homes … into [high-poverty] neighborhoods,” said Jerilyn Dinsmoor, executive director of the La Crosse Promise. “That way, we’re not leaving vacant homes and forgetting about a community … The health of the downtown affects the entire region. The more we can revitalize the core, the better for the entire region.”

Three anonymous donors have provided funds to offer $25,000 and $50,000 college scholarships to 30 families who move to two of La Crosse’s low-income neighborhoods adjacent to downtown.

Writes Malcolm Burnley of Next City:

In order to qualify, a family must agree to invest enough money into a home to raise the home value well above market rate (specifically, by putting $50,000 worth of renovations into a home assessed at under $150,000, or paying $150,000 in construction costs on a brand-new home).

In May, Justin Wolfers of the New York Times detailed two studies the demonstrated that “neighborhoods — their schools, community, neighbors, local amenities, economic opportunities and social norms — are a critical factor shaping your children’s outcomes.”

This is one investment worth watching.

A Neighborhood Turnaround


Back in May, Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times focused on a man who grew up in a low-income neighborhood of the Lower Eastside in the 1950s.

Harris Rosen was the first person in his family to go to college, earning his 1961 degree from Cornell University’s renown School of Hotel Administration. Back to Gotham he went, serving as a convention salesman at the Waldorf Astoria.

Eventually he found himself in the convention capitol of the United States — Orlando, Fla. — where he’d turn a single highway hotel into an empire.

More than a decade ago, he donated the site for the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. But that isn’t his most meaningful contribution to education. His impact on the community of Tangelo Park will be his greatest legacy.

In 1993 Rosen came to the troubled neighborhood for a school visit and asked a group of children how many wanted to go to college. “Two or three hands went up,” he remembered. He made a commitment to a change, inherently believing that the neighborhood’s best answer to crime and hopelessness was education.

In two decades, he has poured more than $10 million into the 3,000-resident Tangelo Park. In a community which once saw more than half of its young people drop out of school, there have been nearly 500 Rosen Scholars since. In the most informal way, his generous scholarships pay for tuition and fees, room and board, books and travel for those students who attend in-state public schools. There is no staff for the Tangelo Park Program. Volunteers — and Rosen himself — take care of the needs.

Residents credit Rosen’s investment with a thorough transformation of the neighborhood. “We are sitting on gold her now,” said Jeroline Adkinson, a resident and president of the Tangelo Park Civic Association. Where once so many would drop out of high school, now 20 of the 25 graduates from the Class of 2015 claimed their Rosen Scholarship.

Redefining Higher Ed

By Patricia Melton

Yesterday Cities of Promise looked at the closure of Sweet Briar College and asked if it was a canary in a coal mine, falling by the wayside because of a “student loan bubble” which now has grown to 13 figures. Yes, a trillion dollars — a level not reached from either U.S. credit card or auto loan debt.

Today we look at the future of college given the market factors that are playing out. We look no further than this morning’s New York Times, in which Joe Nocera has featured a new Kevin Carey book entitled “The End of College.”

Carey, the director for the education policy program at the New America Foundation, takes a sledgehammer to higher education but remains optimistic about the future of education. Perhaps as a parent of a four-year-old, he has to be.

Nocera writes that Carey has “been thinking about the role of universities in American life for virtually his entire career” as both an education writer and policy analyst. David Leonhardt of the New York Times has called Carey “one of the sharpest higher education experts out there” while Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews is even more narrow, calling him “the best higher education writer in the country.”

Carey has been focused on how technology and higher education can be intertwined, yet moving in opposite directions. Technology has created opportunities across the planet while college costs have widened the privilege gap which encourages young people to take enormous risk on future, unguaranteed earnings.

He now feels that universities are “ancient institutions in their last days of decadence, creating the seeds of a new world to come” and that this new world will redefine education in cheaper and more useful ways.

The arms race for fancier campuses — and the status and prestige that go with them — has been shouldered by students and families, but Carey sees a revolution where one’s education becomes more consequential than one’s degree. Organizations like Coursera — where former Yale President Richard Levin now serves as Chief Executive Officer — are building huge catalogues of college courses which are now available online.

Carey believes future learning will come from the “University of Everywhere,” which he recently explained on NPR:

“Historically you went to college in a specific place and only studied with the other people who could afford to go [to] that place, in the future we’re going to study with people all over the world, interconnected over global learning networks and in organizations that in some cases aren’t colleges as we know them today, but rather 21st-century learning organizations that take advantage of all of the educational tools that are rapidly becoming available to offer great college experiences for much less money.”

But how, exactly, will this impact football?

Patricia Melton is the Executive Director of New Haven Promise

Should Camden Become A City of Promise?

By Brett Hoover

In February, the FBI named it the most dangerous U.S. city of its size. Forty percent of its residents live below the federal poverty line and its unemployment rate is three times the national average. Fewer than half of its students graduate from high school and three of its mayors left office heading directly to jail.

Camden, New Jersey — which sits across the Delaware River from Philadelphia — has been notorious for decades, but the buzz words today are rebuild, revitalize, restore and relocate. In fact, in the second half of 2014, six major development projects have been approved for more than $600 million in tax credits from the state’s Economic Development Authority, drawing attention from both the Washington Post and the New York Times in recent weeks. Continue reading