Announcing The Partnership for College Completion

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Forefront’s Member Network, CCAPS (College and Career Access, Persistence and Success) is launching the Partnership for College Completion, a new organization with the mission to catalyze and champion policies, systems, and practices that ensure all students - particularly low-income, first-generation students - graduate from college and achieve their career aspirations.

About 15 months ago, CCAPS released Report on Chicago’s College and Career Access, Persistence and Success Landscape. Following the landscape scan, the group engaged Julie Adrianopoli to conduct almost 40 interviews with experts in the field to get their feedback and recommendations on advancing Chicago’s post-secondary access and success landscape. Most recently, Adrianopoli compiled the Concept Paper: Prioritizing College Completion In and Around Chicago, which calls for the launch of the Partnership for College Completion.

In order to launch the Partnership, CCAPS has convened an Advisory Committee, and an Investors Committee is raising an initial three years of funding.  They have engaged the search firm, Isaacson Miller, to conduct a  national search for an executive director  to lead the Partnership, and a governing board is taking shape.  

Two members of the Investors Committee of the Partnership stepped forward to share their reflections about the Partnership.

We are both members of the Investors Committee, and while all of this progress is impressive, we wanted to share our personal perspectives on why we and our foundations believe in the importance of the Partnership for College Completion.

LIZ THOMPSON – President, The Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education 

My brothers and sisters and I grew up in the Cabrini Green in Chicago and saw first-hand the importance of education in the pathways that my siblings and I followed.  My parents valued education and, with their moral support and a patchwork of financial aid, I received my degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University.  I began my career in Illinois Bell’s (later Ameritech’s) Management Development Program, but left in 1993 to follow my passion of working with youth and became the founding executive director of City Year Chicago, a nonprofit program that was the model for the national Americorps program.  Alongside my husband Don, I now dedicate my energy to nonprofits throughout Chicago and beyond.  Education is the primary focus of our philanthropy through the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (The CAFE) where we have funded numerous organizations dedicated to student success.  We understand, firsthand, the gaps that exist around opportunities for our students, including the belief gaps that many adults hold for them. I believe the Partnership will be an important component in making Chicago the attainment city for college completion.  Our young people are amazing and, as a city and as a region, we need to do all we can to help all of them realize their potential, regardless of the neighborhood they call home.

DINAZ MANSURI – Executive Director, The Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation 

The Kaplan Family Foundation’s commitment to social justice and advancing educational opportunities for young people make the Partnership for College Completion a good fit for us.  In fact, it’s really the perfect fit.  In 2013, Kaplan went ‘all in’ on college access and completion and shortly thereafter, began engaging with the newly formed CCAPS group.  CCAPS shared our goals and our vision – to support access to college and to increase postsecondary opportunities and success for low-income, first generation students.  We prioritize both college access (getting students to college) as well as college completion (getting students through college).  We see lots of important work being done in the college success space, but to get meaningful results, we know it will need to be more coordinated and strategic.  As one of my foundation colleagues says: we have the bricks, now we need the mortar.  We believe that the Partnership will be that mortar providing alignment, coordination and strategy for the sector.  It is especially important that the Partnership is taking a regional approach, and we are delighted to be working with our family foundation colleagues throughout Chicagoland such as the Dunham Fund in Aurora and the Gorter Family Foundation in Lake County, Illinois. 

This collaborative process cut across many sectors from the start.  As is reflected in the Landscape Scan and Stakeholder Feedback reports (links above) nonprofits, school districts, higher education, community/civic institutions and philanthropic leaders have been involved throughout.

To learn more about the Partnership for College Completion.  Please join us at a community meeting:

Thursday, June 2nd at 1:30-3pm

at Microsoft Chicago, 200 E Randolph Street, Suite 200, Chicago, IL

If you’re curious about what’s been happening since the Concept Paper: Prioritizing College Completion In and Around Chicago was made public, we encourage you to attend this informational session to learn about efforts to advance the Partnership for College Completion in Cook County and the Chicago area.

Register here (session is likely to reach capacity).


Tuesday, June 7th at 11:30am

at Bernie’s Book Bank, 917 North Shore Drive, Lake Bluff, IL

The Gorter Family Foundation has generously offered to host a briefing for educators, organizations, and industry leaders to learn about the Partnership for College Completion.  This gathering will offer an opportunity for interested participants to learn what steps are being taken to promote the Partnership and consider the many benefits that this collaboration can afford Lake County and the Chicagoland region.  All are welcome to attend.

Please RSVP to Cheri Richardson at  by May 25, 2016.


Additional updates will be shared in this space in the coming months.  We look forward to working together with you to make the Chicago region a model for college attainment! 

— Dinaz Mansuri and Liz Thompson

The Partnership for College Completion