Riverside, California Completion Counts Learning Initiative
With former Mayor Ron Loveridge as the convener and champion of postsecondary completion, Riverside is seeing enormous gains through its Completion Counts program. When the city found that only 17.5% of cohorts in the Alvord and Riverside Unified School District's Class of 2002 completed a postsecondary degree, city leaders knew actions had to be taken. With the support of a $3 million grant over three years from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Communities Learning in Partnership (CLIP) initiative, the city began planning and instituting Completion Counts - A Riverside Learning Partnership, a collaborative among community, education, and business stakeholders to improve college going and completion rates in the city by 2020.
Year one was marked by disagreements from stakeholders over success data and goals. However, year two saw major improvements in data reporting, curriculum alignment, and community engagement. The oversight team released a public Report Card on program progress and created the Riverside City College 2-Year Guarantee Contracts that give students increased benefits for persisting and completing a degree. During his tenure, Mayor Loveridge led community engagement efforts by using his convening powers and bully pulpit to engage skeptics and build good will around the project in the community.
To assist in these efforts and to expand the partnership-building capacity of the program, the city hired a full-time Strategic Communications Specialist. Realizing that buy-in from numerous and diverse partners is necessary to the success of the program, the specialist has instituted a broad and comprehensive plan to engage all possible stakeholders in the community. With a new specialist and the newly established working groups around specific targeted goals, Completion Counts has become more efficient and engaging in their efforts.