55,000 Degrees Recruiting College Graduates to ‘Pass The Cap’

55,000 Degrees Recruiting College Graduates to ‘Pass The Cap’

Mayor Fischer, Madeline Abramson leading effort to inspire future graduates


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 24, 2014) 55,000 Degrees, Louisville’s education movement, is recruiting the 2014 class of college graduates for an important job – to inspire friends and loved ones to earn a college degree.

The “Pass The Cap” campaign is calling on soon-to-be college graduates to pass their graduation cap onto someone they believe can earn a college degree.

Mayor Greg Fischer, chairman of 55,000 Degrees, and Madeline Abramson, a long-time community leader who earned her college degree just a few months ago, are leading the inspirational effort. Universities and colleges throughout the area are joining in, contacting graduating seniors and encouraging them to “Pass The Cap.”

“We believe there’s no better way to cap off a personal success than to inspire someone else to earn their college degree,” Mayor Fischer said. “That’s how we will reach our 55,000-degree goal – one degree at a time.”

The idea is simple – if you will graduate in May, find someone to “Pass The Cap” to in order to inspire another graduate. Give your graduation cap to someone who you believe can earn a college degree. It might be a sibling, a parent, a friend or a neighbor. It may be an adult learner preparing to return to the classroom, someone who is on track to earn a diploma or someone who just didn’t finish the college journey.

Abramson, wife of Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, earned her bachelor’s degree in December – more than two decades after she first attended college. Part of the inspiration to finish what she started came from her husband and her son, Sidney, who will graduate from Bellarmine University in May.

“Passing the cap – literally or figuratively – to someone else is a tremendous, motivational gift,” Abramson said. “It says, ‘I believe in you and I know you can do it.’”

Here’s how “Pass The Cap” works:

Choose someone

  • Let a person know you will give your graduation cap to them after you cross the stage because you believe they can earn a diploma, too.

Tell everyone

  • Post an inspirational message on our Facebook page (facebook.com/55kdegrees)
  • Tweet your message on Twitter (#passthecap, @55kDegrees)
  • Post a “Pass The Cap” video tribute on YouTube
  • Post a picture on Instagram (#passthecap, @55kDegrees)

“The passing of the cap represents the passing of the baton,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, 55,000 Degrees executive director. “There’s no better time to inspire someone to literally walk in your footsteps than after walking across a stage and receiving a diploma. A degree increases a person’s earning power and opens the door to new opportunities.”

55,000 Degrees is the ambitious initiative to add 55,000 more college graduates in the Louisville area by 2020. In 2013, Louisville had the highest percentage of working-age adults with a college degree in the community’s history at 41.3 percent. The city exceeded the national average (39.4 percent) by nearly 2 percentage points.

‘Reverse transfer degree’ program helps college students mark milestones

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Is it possible to earn a college degree and not know it?

Officials at the University of Louisville, Jefferson Community and Technical College and 55,000 Degrees say it is. They have collaboratively launched a new program to help transfer students determine if they already have enough credit hours for a JCTC associate degree.

“This program is a big win for everyone,” said UofL President James Ramsey. “We’ve made it easy for our transfer students to figure out if they already qualify, or are close to qualifying, for an associate degree.”

The Reverse Transfer Degree initiative targets scholars who earned at least 15 credit hours from JCTC before transferring to UofL and earning another 45 credit hours. UofL has identified more than 1,300 students who may be eligible for the initiative.  Over 100 are expected to receive a reverse associate degree this semester.

“Students who start at Jefferson and transfer are focused on that four-year degree and often don’t realize how close they are to earning the associate,” said Tony Newberry, president of JCTC. “We are pleased that our great partner, UofL, not only recognizes the value of the associate degree but also the hard work it takes to earn one.”

The Reverse Transfer Degree initiative is another way UofL and JCTC are supporting 55,000 Degrees—a plan to add 55,000 more college graduates in the Louisville area by 2020.

“As it turns out, many people have already passed this 60-credit-hour mark. Earning an associate degree is not only a milestone but a motivator for students,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees. “Reverse transfers fuel persistence and encourage students to stay in school and finish a four-year degree.”

For details about the program, contact UofL’s Wes Partin, Office of Admissions, at wes.partin@louisville.edu or 502-852-4959.

15K Degrees Initiative Seeking 15K Coordinator

15K logo

The 15K Degrees Initiative is currently seeking a 15K Coordinator. The 15K Degrees Coordinator will provide leadership for the 15K Degrees Initiative by working with stakeholders, groups and teams from a cross-section of the community to mobilize the African-American community toward achieving the goal of increasing the number of degrees. The Coordinator will develop collaborative opportunities for 15K Degrees with 55,000 Degrees for Metro Louisville.

Read the RFP here!

File, Follow and Facebook Winner is Following a New Career Path


henry_curtisAn adult learner who is preparing for a new career is the winner of “Get Cash for College: File, Follow and Facebook,” a contest sponsored by 55,000 Degrees. Henry Curtis completed his Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in January and then used social media to spread the word.

Curtis tweeted on the last day of the contest and posted on the 55,000 Degrees Facebook wall that “Filing my FAFSA wasn’t hard at all.” He mentioned @55kDegrees and used #cashforcollege to enter the contest.

Curtis was the winning name drawn from all entries and had successfully completed the requirements of the contest. “I was very happy to get the phone call letting me know I was the winner,” said Curtis. “The contest was a great way to make sure students were giving themselves the best chance of receiving important financial aid dollars. I greatly appreciate this scholarship.”

“We were so pleased to hear from hundreds of students and adults making plans to continue their education,” said Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees. “More people in Louisville have college degrees than ever before and we want to keep growing that number.”

Curtis, 38, is a full-time student at Jefferson Community & Technical College, pursuing a degree in computer science. He had previously studied business administration and Spanish. After being laid off from his job in advertising, Curtis decided to return to school to prepare for a job in the growing field of technology.

The “Get Cash for College: File, Follow and Facebook” contest ran through the month of January to encourage high school students and adults headed to college to cash in on financial aid opportunities. Hundreds of thousands of dollars available to help current and prospective students earn their degrees are quickly depleted each year. Filing in January helped to secure limited state financial aid dollars.

55,000 Degrees is the public-private partnership committed to adding 55,000 more college graduates to Louisville by 2020.

Louisville’s College-Going Initiative Earns Top Honor from Business Leadership

Louisville’s College-Going Initiative Earns Top Honor from Business Leadership

55,000 Degrees Receives 2013 Silver Fleur de Lis Award for Progress Toward Goal

February 20, 2014 – Greater Louisville, Inc. ,The Metro Chamber of Commerce, has presented its prestigious Silver Fleur de Lis Award to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and 55,000 Degrees Executive Director Mary Gwen Wheeler to recognize the impressive progress by the city’s education movement.

55,000 Degrees was launched with the ambitious goal of increasing the number of college graduates in Louisville by 55,000 by 2020. Three years later, Louisville has reached the highest percentage of working-age adults with a college degree in the community’s history. At 41.3 percent, the city now exceeds the national average by nearly two percentage points.

Local colleges and universities ramped up degree production by 20 percent since 2010 with Louisville exceeding the national pace for enrollment growth, particularly among adult students.

“This award is testament to the great work of our staff and the dedication of our partners,” said Wheeler. “It also motivates us to push even harder to achieve our goal to have a majority of Louisville’s working-age population holding college degrees.”

Fischer, Chairman of the Board for 55,000 Degrees, has made educational attainment a top priority of his administration, with the focus on a more educated workforce attracting more high-paying jobs to the area.

The Silver Fleur de Lis Award recognizes outstanding commitments and achievements in the Louisville community and is given each year to individuals and organizations that show leadership and action to make the region a better place to live and work.

The award was presented at the 2014 GLI Annual Meeting, on Feb. 18 at the Galt House Hotel & Suites.