Walk-in center's aim: Boost college completion

by Erika Owens

An unassuming office at The Gallery now houses information, resources, and support to help adults complete college.

Graduate! Philadelphia opened its outreach office at the Philadelphia Education Fund’s College Access Center at 9th and Market Streets on February 5. The shared site means that “a family can walk in and while one parent is working with their middle or high school student, another parent can work with their own advisor,” said Hadass Sheffer, executive director of Graduate! Philadelphia.

A joint effort of the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board and the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Graduate! Philadelphia has a straightforward mission: “to increase the number of adults with college degrees in the Greater Philadelphia area.”

Mayor Nutter made that mission a central piece of his inaugural address, setting a five-year goal of doubling the percentage of Philadelphians who have completed four years of college – a figure that now stands at a strikingly low 18 percent.

Graduate! Philadelphia estimates that 70,000 Philadelphians started, but never completed a college degree.

Prospective college students can drop into the center and meet with an academic advisor to discuss their academic history, college goals, and a plan for degree completion. Advisors also help students gather tax documents and fill out the federal financial aid application before the May 1 PHEAA grant deadline.

Several local colleges have partnered with Graduate! Philadelphia. Its website, www.graduatephiladelphia.org, details programs available at the colleges and lists upcoming events and workshops.

The City of Philadelphia and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation fund the program.