Since 2007, BHEF has partnered with its members and the Louisville community to increase the region’s college degree attainment rates. Following an initial site visit in November 2007, BHEF committed to working with Louisville to improve college enrollment and success, particularly for disadvantaged students. Specifically, BHEF recommended that the Business Leaders for Education (BLE) Forum lead an effort to clarify the regions big economic goals, identify the education strategies necessary to accomplish these goals, and develop a plan to improve key educational outcomes in Louisville. Subsequently, BHEF collaborated with local K-12 education, higher education, business, and foundation and community leaders to draft the Louisville Blueprint for Community Action. This plan outlines five framing goals for regional education improvement and offers accompanying strategies.
Since then, 24 regional leaders, including the mayor, the presidents of local colleges and universities, the superintendent, leaders from community organizations, and senior business leaders in the community, signed The Greater Louisville Education Commitment—an outline of the common education goals and strategies that unite the community. In October 2010, Louisville launched 55,000 Degrees, a new public-private partnership named after the number of degrees needed to increase Louisville’s competitive rating among peer cities. As a result of the success in Louisville, BHEF sponsored Cities for Success: A BHEF Leadership Summit to shine a spotlight on powerful and effective educational improvement efforts in the region. The event brought together teams of community leaders from Des Moines and Oklahoma City to engage in dialogue around improving education outcomes in Louisville and elsewhere. BHEF continues to offer strategic consultation and national perspective as well as bring the support and expertise of other BHEF members working on similar issues across the nation.