One Million Degrees

One Million Degrees

226 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 528 Chicago, 60601

Philanthropy Awards: winnerPlease share your mission. 

One Million Degrees (OMD) is the only organization in Illinois exclusively committed to serving and graduating community college students, a population that comprises over 60 percent of all public college students in Illinois. For many low-income students, community college is the first step in the journey toward a bright future, however, lacking critical resources, just 20 percent graduate in three years and only half return for a second year. Through the innovative Scholar Development Program, OMD supports are designed to transform academic and professional outcomes for community college students by providing layers of support that address students’ complex and diverse challenges. OMD’s wrap-around model not only helps students develop healthy academic habits to support their success in college, but also builds the financial literacy, professional acumen, and civic leadership skills and experiences that contribute to success in life. The core One Million Degrees Scholar Development Program components are: personal supports (monthly coaching from a business professional and intensive case management from highly trained Program Coordinators), professional supports (monthly professional development sessions, leadership development, networking events and more), academic supports (free weekly tutoring, assistance transferring to four-year institutions, and course planning), and financial supports (up to $1,000/year in performance-based stipends, tuition assistance, and enrichment grants).

Describe how your organization lives/realizes its mission. 

OMD’s holistic support model aligns with research indicating that while most community college students are low-income, financial assistance alone is not sufficient to keep them in school (The Atlantic, October 2015). The students OMD serves face complex and diverse challenges that often distract their focus on academics, but unlike students attending traditional four-year universities, community college students typically do not have access to a robust pipeline of resources to support their retention and success. By providing support in the four key areas that often derail community college students from achieving their goals, OMD increases the likelihood that these students will stay in school, earn a college degree, and launch an upwardly mobile professional career. It is the combination of supports working in tandem to keep students on the path to graduation that positions OMD to make a widespread impact on the college dropout rate of community college students across Illinois.

Read One Million Degrees’ Philanthropy Awards article here.