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$30 million from Steve and Connie Ballmer and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to seven Southeast Michigan community colleges
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$30 million from Steve and Connie Ballmer and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to seven Southeast Michigan community colleges

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees Community College Collaborative (D3C3) announced over $30 million in investment from the Ballmer Group and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.

The initiative is a collaborative of seven Southeast Michigan community colleges to ensure students have equitable educational opportunities and graduate with high-value credentials or degrees that lead to good-paying, in-demand jobs with local employers, boosting the Region’s overall prosperity.

“D3C3 is about transforming our talent pipeline through innovative partnerships with local community colleges that are uniquely positioned to help students enter the workforce with the qualifications employers need,” said Sandy K. Baruah, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber. “Ballmer Group and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s generous support speaks to the value of this initiative and importance of collaborative and job-focused education that will benefit employers, families, and the Region.”

According to David Egner, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, the work being done through D3C3 is not new. He cited Detroit Drives Degrees, which has been a cornerstone of the Chamber’s education and talent strategy for years; the seven community colleges’ ongoing work to increase student access and success throughout the years; and the effort the State of Michigan has been making, with initiatives like Michigan Reconnect.

“I think the difference now is the collaboration, the connection, the push of all of these parties to move in the same common direction – that of helping our talented young people find their way into career paths that will make a difference for them and make a tremendous difference for this Region,” said Egner.

Peter Provenzano, Chancellor of Oakland Community College and incoming Chair of the Michigan Community College Association, agreed with Egner’s sentiments, stating this collaborative “can expand not only access to college but success for all populations that we service” by ensuring “the on-ramp to more degrees is accessible, affordable, and achievable.”

As part of the Chamber’s education and talent strategy, D3C3 has three main objectives:  Increase enrollment and community college completion rates. This entails a strong focus on addressing racial equity gaps, leading to more students obtaining high-value credentials or degrees that meet employer needs and lead to good-paying jobs.

Align and deepen pathways between the K-12 system and community colleges to accelerate and expand access to dual enrollment and early college options.

Build stronger partnerships with employers to develop sector-wide strategies for talent pipeline development, upskilling, and reskilling, beginning with the mobility sector.

To meet these objectives, funding has been awarded to the seven community college partners to support the development and execution of plans to create systemic change at their institutions. Funding is being used for various purposes, including technical assistance for implementing best practices for student success and assessing the regional workforce and credential landscape.

“We know that in Southeast Michigan, community colleges are critical to building smoother pathways from education to quality careers, particularly through close engagement with K-12 partners, four-year university partners, and local employers,” said Kayla Roney Smith, Portfolio Manager for the Ballmer Group.

The initial investment in the collaborative will cover three years; however, Egner shared it should be looked at as a “pilot to augment the work already underway in community colleges … [that] will be [in] a dynamic state of evolution for these three years and beyond.”

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