A Publication of WTVP

Supporting more than 1,600 local students over the last six years…

Peoria Promise serves two roles: attracting educated workers to our community, and producing more of them through access to higher education. Education offers the very real potential to increase an individual’s productivity—the key to economic growth. For businesses, the return on investment is a city with a well-trained, employable population, and a more desirable place to live and do business.

Over the past six years, Peoria Promise has supported more than 1,600 City of Peoria students by providing $2.6 million in scholarships to pursue an occupational certificate, associate’s degree or transfer coursework at Illinois Central College. Students can receive up to 100 percent of their tuition fees paid, lowering financial barriers that may have prevented them from pursuing their dreams of a higher education and a better life. This has been made possible by the generous support of corporate and individual donors who believe in the power of education. Absolutely no local, state or federal taxes are collected to fund the scholarships, making these investors essential to the continued success of the organization, students and community.

Measuring the Results
Overall student success can be measured either by graduation or transfer rates. Currently, we have the complete data from our first two cohorts (2008 and 2009), and will be able to measure 2010 once those results are available.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, Peoria Promise students have high graduation and transfer rates. Of the 238 students comprising our 2008 cohort, 164 have either graduated or transferred to another institution—a success rate of 68.9 percent. The 2009 cohort consisted of 269 students, 153 of whom have either graduated or transferred to another institution—a success rate of 56.8 percent. As time goes by, additional degrees will be received, and these numbers will continue to increase.

More than half of our students continue their education within a 60-mile radius of Peoria. While most live on campus, many are able to remain in Peoria by commuting or completing online courses. In fact, one third of transfer students attend a college or university in the City of Peoria, where they continue to live, work and spend their discretionary dollars. Everyone benefits from keeping these students local.

Although many students move away after college, our hope is that most of our students remain here or return to Peoria to begin their careers and families. Early results support this outcome. According to a recent Peoria Promise survey, more than 75 percent of respondents indicated they are currently employed, which is higher than the national average for that age group (20-24). Of those who are employed, 90 percent work in the Peoria area, including 67 percent who juggle work and school simultaneously.

Recent Growth and Support
In 2013, Peoria Promise increased efforts to support students by establishing an office in the heart of the city. As future funding allows, additional collaborative and educational efforts will be launched to further support our students to increase degree attainment and identify employment opportunities in Peoria. Peoria Promise has the potential to become a direct conduit between students and businesses that want to provide opportunities such as job shadowing, internships, career mentors and employment. Above all, students will continue to be encouraged to stay in Peoria to live, work, play and volunteer in the community.

The same year, an online application was developed by Stellar Systems, a locally-owned business. The application, which is integrated with ICC’s student data network, provides increased access and a simplified process for students. Those who do not have a computer are able to use their mobile phone to apply.

The need for businesses to employ a skilled, educated workforce will never diminish; it will only increase, year after year. The same is true of the funding needed to support Peoria Promise and our students’ educational goals. The investments made by Peoria’s business community helps make this mission possible. From the very beginning, businesses such as Caterpillar, CEFCU, RLI, Illinois American Water, UnityPoint Health, Par-A-Dice, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Advanced Medical Transport, Coulter Companies, Ameren Illinois, Archer Daniels Midland Company, R.W. Baird and many more have supported this mission. Consider following their lead, and help make the promise of a higher education a reality for hundreds of more Peorians. Support Peoria Promise today! iBi

Sheri McGill is executive director of Peoria Promise.