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In 2019, more than 120,000 adult Philadelphians had more than one year of college credit with no degree. These “Near Completers” were overwhelmingly Black or African American and more likely to live in specific areas of North and West Philadelphia. More than half of those that were employed worked in low-skill occupations earning a median annual salary of just $30,000.

This research brief first provides insight into the demographic and economic characteristics of Near Completers in Philadelphia before examining the labor market benefits of degree completion. Overall, our research shows that advancing educational attainment alone is not enough to improve individual economic outcomes. Individuals who complete higher levels of formal education but fail to transition to higher skilled employment are unlikely to experience any significant wage gains. To help ensure that upward occupational mobility does occur, degree-completion programs should be tightly coupled with career guidance and workforce development programming.
By combining existing funding programs to support college Near Completers, workforce leaders in Philadelphia have the opportunity to not only help upskill workers and advance individual economic mobility but to also help ensure the resiliency of our local economy.

Following the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Philadelphia Works has partnered with MontcoWorks and area colleges and universities to help administer degree completion programs specifically for dislocated workers. Three hundred individuals who are within one semester of completing a degree or certificate will receive tuition support and workforce development training to ensure their quick completion and connection to high-quality employment. This program will be funded in part through a grant awarded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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