Will This Be The Face?


Cities of Promise has often referred to the broad range of scholarship-centric initiatives as “the Promise movement.” And hasn’t every social movement in modern history pushed forward with the establishment of an identifiable face?

So a question for those in education circles is this: Will LeBron James — the global icon who just committed more than $50 million to pay for college scholarships for Akron students — become the “Face of Promise?”

One could reasonably argue that he already is. His announcement came on Friday afternoon and within 24 hours coverage came from a broad range of media — from CNN to ESPN, from Time Magazine to TMZ, from Essence to the Grio, from the Washington Post to the Chicago Tribune to USA Today, and from Fortune to Mashable. His donation is one of the biggest individual commitments in Promise history.

But yet another credible argument would be, “let’s just wait and see.” There is no question of his amazing reach — primarily as an 11-time NBA All-Star with five straight trips to the NBA Finals. He is also a well-known pitchman for enormous companies and Judd Apatow recently called him a “weirdly good actor” after his performance in “Trainwreck.”

His ability to draw attention to the Promise movement would be unparalleled. But will he leverage his gift to his hometown, its students and its largest university to bring attention to programs outside of Akron? Will his focus on his hometown spawn similar programs from other celebrities?

Boy, do we hope so. We’ll just wait and see.

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

A German Promise?

Since 1985, the cost of going to college in the U.S. has soared by more than 500 percent and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight. That increase? It’s twice the increase of medical cost, three times the increase of gas prices and four times the increase of the cost of shelter. (If you want to see what this has meant at your favorite school, follow this sad link to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s recent tuition study.)

So where can a young person — especially one without a local Promise program — turn for relief? Perhaps Germany? France? Maybe Brazil? Continue reading

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