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Official Launch of Graduation Imperative

Central Carolina Community Foundation, Columbia Opportunity Resource, the South Carolina Higher Education Foundation and the Navigating from Good to Great Foundation have joined forces to focus on increasing two-year, four-year and advanced degree attainment in the Columbia area. The new initiative, called The Graduation Imperative, is designed to make college more accessible for Midlands-area students with the ultimate goals of boosting South Carolina’s economy and retaining talent in the area.

According to a study by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018, 56 percent of South Carolina’s jobs will require postsecondary education. At the current degree attainment rate, South Carolina will fall short of the 56 percent and will not have enough skilled workers to fill these jobs.

The value of a college degree is exponential. College graduates will:

  • Increase their income by 83 percent, meaning that over their lifetime, those with a bachelor’s degree will earn $1.2 million more than a counterpart who only has a high school diploma.
  • Be less likely to face unemployment in his or her lifetime. Unemployment rates are 10 percent lower for full-time workers who possess college degrees.
  • Be better prepared for a changing economy. Researchers estimate that a staggering 68 percent of new jobs created nationwide between 2010 and 2018 will require a college degree.
  • Make more money, even if they work a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. A recent study shows that a degree causes significant salary bumps.
  • Be more likely to have health insurance. Only 8.5 percent of full-time workers with college degrees lack health insurance, as opposed to 37.5% of people without degrees.

Anchored around the Columbia region’s institutions of higher education, the strategy of The Graduation Imperative focuses on community-led initiatives to engage and develop college graduates. The Graduation Imperative’s educational partners include: the University of South Carolina, Columbia College, Benedict College, Midlands Technical College, Midlands Middle College, Columbia International University, Allen University, South University – Columbia and Newberry College.

“We plan to accomplish our goals through a series of events designed to address students’ financial concerns and to connect them with resources,” said Katherine Swartz, Executive Director of Columbia Opportunity Resource (COR). Those events include:

  • A scholarship expo tentatively planned for October 2012.
  • Financial aid workshops tentatively planned to begin in January 2013.
  • A career and job fair tentatively planned for Spring 2013.

“Degree attainment directly impacts Columbia area businesses,” said Grant Jackson, Senior Vice President for Community Development with the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s Navigating from Good to Great Foundation. “Without skilled, college-educated workers to apply, job openings will go unanswered, slowing down work while businesses struggle to find a qualified candidate. Without connections, mentors and internship opportunities, students won’t know where opportunity lives or how to get there. The Graduation Imperative is designed to encourage business and community leaders to invest in students today to help develop a talent base whose value is exponential.”

“It takes a community to get our kids through college and to retain that talent,” said JoAnn Turnquist, President and CEO of Central Carolina Community Foundation. “In addition to the wonderful partnerships that we have already developed to get The Graduation Imperative off the ground, we will be reaching out over the next few weeks and months to identify more partners who can help this initiative be successful.”

For more information about The Graduation Imperative, visit

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