Lumina Foundation Designates St. Louis as Talent Hub

St. Louis Graduates granted $275,000 to address equity gaps in regional degree completion

INDIANAPOLIS – Lumina Foundation, in partnership with the Kresge Foundation, has announced the designation of St. Louis and six other communities across the country as Talent Hubs. These cities, along with 17 others selected in 2017, earned this designation by meeting rigorous standards for creating environments that attract, retain, and cultivate talent, particularly among today’s students, many of whom are people of color, the first in their families to go to college, and from low-income households.

Each Talent Hub focuses intensively on raising the nation’s overall post-high school attainment level to 60 percent of working-age adults by 2025. Talent Hub cities are committed to eliminating deep disparities in educational outcomes among African-Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians, who fare poorly in contrast with white and Asian students.

The St. Louis Talent Hub is a collaboration led by St. Louis Graduates, a network of K-12 and higher education, youth-serving non-profit organizations, business and philanthropy dedicated to transforming lives through postsecondary education equity.

St. Louis Graduates is proud to partner with our colleagues in the St. Louis Talent Hub to reduce barriers to degree completion for underserved students in our region. Earning a college degree provides the surest path to economic and social mobility in our society, so we need to ensure that all students are being prepared for postsecondary opportunities regardless of their race or household income, said Alan Byrd, Jr., Co-Chair of St. Louis Graduates, and Vice Provost for Enrollment Management at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “Receiving the Talent Hub designation is validation that this work matters, and it is vital to the future of our region.  St. Louis is not likely to reach the 60% goal for degree attainment without eliminating educational disparities for low-income students and students of color.

About Talent Hubs

The seven new communities designated as Talent Hubs are: Corpus Christi, Texas; Detroit; Elkhart County, Ind.; Las Vegas; Mobile, Ala.; Rio Grande Valley, Texas; and St. Louis.

They join 17 other Talent Hubs: Albuquerque, N.M.; Austin, Texas; Boston; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ind.; Dayton, Ohio; Denver; Fresno, Calif..; Los Angeles; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; New York; Philadelphia; Racine, Wis.; Richmond, Va.; Shasta County, Calif.; and Tulsa, Okla.

To date, Talent Hub investments by Lumina and Kresge total just over $10 million.

“We have added to the growing roster of top-flight cities committed to meeting the demands for an educated workforce,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation. “The Talent Hub designation serves both as an aspirational target for other cities and a foundation from which cities designated as Talent Hubs can build.”

Each community designated as a Talent Hub will receive $275,000 in grant funding over 31 months. Grant funding will support local efforts to educate more people, allowing community and education leaders to better meet the specific needs of residents. Lumina will provide these funds in partnership with Kresge.

Kresge’s support of Talent Hubs comes from its national education program, which includes a focus on aligning and strengthening urban higher education ecosystems to help more low-income, underrepresented, and students of color gain access to—and succeed in—higher education.

Talent Hubs are one outgrowth of Lumina’s Community Partnerships for Attainment, which represented more than $10 million of grants to 75 cities across the country. This partnership, which began in 2013, continues to work directly with communities to expand educational opportunities beyond high school.

“With our partners at Kresge, Lumina’s Talent Hubs designation aims to deepen the impact of cross-sector, place-based efforts to increase higher education attainment in communities and cities across the country,” said Danette Howard, Lumina’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer. “Talent Hubs work closely with Lumina and national thought leaders to develop a customized action plan tailored to the needs of their specific communities, with a focus on increasing the percentage of post-high school credentials residents have earned. This effort is directly connected to Lumina’s mission of helping the nation ensure that 60 percent of working-age Americans have quality credentials by 2025.”


About the St. Louis Talent Hub

The St. Louis Talent Hub is focused on eliminating degree completion gaps for low-income and African American traditional age students attending four-year institutions. The Talent Hub work builds on the research in Degrees with Less Debt: Effective Higher Education Strategies for Underrepresented Student Populations, a report commissioned by St. Louis Graduates and published in 2017. It includes efforts to build out effective campus-based institutional student supports among five higher education partners, and to foster replication of effective practice through a new learning institute engaging postsecondary professionals across Missouri.

St. Louis Graduates is joined in its Talent Hub work by St. Louis Regional Chamber, its partner in the Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment, along with St. Louis Community Foundation, which serves as the fiscal sponsor for St. Louis Graduates.

“An educated workforce is essential for the St. Louis region to grow and prosper today and in the future,” said Amelia Bond, President and CEO of St. Louis Community Foundation. “Our designation as a Talent Hub city is validation that our community strategy focused on degree completion is working. St. Louis Community Foundation is proud to lend its support as fiscal sponsor to the St. Louis Graduates network.”

“We are excited to participate in an effort with St. Louis Graduates and higher education institutions to advance core strategies of the St. Louis Regional Education Commitment – our shared postsecondary agenda aligned to the goal of increasing educational attainment and building the kind of talent base our region needs to thrive and prosper,” said Tom Chulick, Interim President and CEO, St. Louis Regional Chamber. “This broad cross-sector collaboration aligning to a shared goal of postsecondary equity is what our region needs. It is what winning looks like for St. Louis. We appreciate the Lumina and Kresge foundations for recognizing the great work underway in our community and for committing resources to support key strategies that will make a critical difference.”

Five higher education institutions are partners with St. Louis Graduates in the St. Louis Talent Hub – Maryville University, Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO), University of Central Missouri (UCM), University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), and Webster University. Four of the five were identified in Degrees with Less Debt as leaders in graduating low-income students, first-generation students and students of color at higher than predicted rates with less than expected debt.

The St. Louis Talent Hub partners are implementing a collaborative workplan to increase degree completion for low-income students and African American students.

Examples of the work underway on partner campuses include:

  • UMSL’s Finish Your Degree Program removes financial holds for seniors with outstanding balances of $1,000 or less through targeted outreach to eligible students.  This scholarship program has assisted 187 students with completing their degrees over the last five years. Recipients have a 94% graduation rate. UMSL plans to increase the graduation rate to 98% by 2020.
  • Maryville University is targeting its Life Coaches to better support African American students. With the 24/7 support of Life Coaches, Maryville expects its retention rate of African American students to reach 80% by 2020.
  • Southeast Missouri State University is increasing retention and completion of low-income African American students through student graduation pathways plans and career connections.
  • UCM is providing peer mentoring/success coaching to low-income, first generation, and African American students which comprise 64% of the total campus population.
  • Webster University is expanding components of its Transitions program, which includes low-income, first generation, and African American students, to increase retention rates to 81% by 2020.

In addition, St. Louis Graduates and institutional partners have launched the Student Success Learning Institute to foster replication of effective student support strategies identified in the Degrees with Less Debt research. The first Institute, held in February at UCM, focused on more effectively using data to provide student supports before they are at risk of stopping out. Over the next three years, the Institute will include workshops for administrators and front-line staff around pro-active advising, emergency grants and flexible financial aid, just-in-time academic supports, and other evidence-based strategies aimed at increasing completion.

The Talent Hub strategies complement St. Louis Graduates’ ongoing initiatives aimed at postsecondary access and affordability. These include Scholarship Central, an online system connecting students to private scholarship and interest-free loan programs; the Professional Development Institute which builds the capacity of advisors in middle school, high school, higher education and community non-profit organizations to support students in finding a postsecondary program that is an academic, social and financial fit; and policy advocacy in partnership with students through the Active Advocacy Coalition.


Excited and Engaged Partners

Mark Lombardi, PhD, President of Maryville University: “Maryville is excited to be part of the Talent Hub and through our relentless commitment to access and equity, we will empower thousands of St. Louisans with a cutting-edge education and outstanding career outcomes throughout this region.”

Jennifer McCluskey, PhD, Vice President for Student Success at Maryville: “Life coaching has been instrumental to student success at Maryville and beyond. From our personalized approach with multiple learning diagnostics to our 24/7 availability of Life Coaches, being a part of the Talent Hub allows us to hone in and focus efforts for low income and African American students.  We will continue to raise the bar and reach our goals for not only access to quality education, but completion of degree.

Trent Ball, Assistant Vice President for Academic Diversity and Outreach, Southeast Missouri State University: “At Southeast, we have developed and are expanding our initiatives and programs to assist the key target populations and are looking forward to working with our colleagues to increase the retention and graduation of African American and low-income students.  The Talent Hub designation strengthens the work we will all do collectively to not only implement best and promising practices but to also share scalable programs and projects that can help students across the state and across the nation.”

Dr. Chuck Ambrose, President of the University of Central Missouri: “The Talent Hub designation is an important acknowledgement of a lot of hard work by institutions that are dedicated to the success of all St. Louis area students. These are students who will make important contributions to the state because of the difference a degree brings to their lives. St. Louis has provided energy to our institution by sending great students to our campus who in return have emerged as outstanding community leaders, and the Talent Hub is a way to take these efforts to a whole new level.”

Thomas George, Chancellor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis: “The University of Missouri-St. Louis is proud to be a partner with St. Louis Graduates and other higher education institutions in the St. Louis Talent Hub. Providing students of every background with an opportunity to receive a high-quality education to better themselves has been a core part of UMSL’s mission since its founding, and we’re constantly striving to eliminate the barriers that prevent students from doing so. The objectives of the Talent Hub fit neatly with that goal. The diverse group of students aided by these initiatives who complete their degrees will not only improve their own futures but will go on to strengthen the entire St. Louis region.

Carolyn Corley, Associate Vice President for Government Relations & Sponsored Programs at Webster University: “St. Louis’s designation as a Talent Hub will provide an extraordinary opportunity to help students complete their degrees, galvanize our regional workforce and strengthen St. Louis’s plan to address the gap in degree attainment. This project allows partners to collaborate for maximum impact for the region. Webster is excited to contribute by magnifying the impact of our Transitions program and continuing our longstanding record of success with promoting degree completion for an economic and ethnically diverse student body.” 


Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Lumina envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. The Foundation’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.

The Kresge Foundation was founded in 1924 to promote human progress. Today, Kresge fulfills that mission by building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for low-income people in American cities, seeking to dismantle structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice. Using a full array of grant, loan, and other investment tools, Kresge invests more than $160 million annually to foster economic and social change. For more information visit

St. Louis Graduates is a collaborative network of K-12 and higher education, youth-serving non-profit organizations, business and philanthropy dedicated to transforming lives through postsecondary education equity. St. Louis Graduates is a component fund of St. Louis Community Foundation.

Since its founding in 1915 as one of the nation’s first community foundations, the goal of the St. Louis Community Foundation has been to promote and inspire charitable giving within the St. Louis region and to expand the impact charitable dollars have on improving the quality of life in our area and beyond.