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Can College Attainment in Cities Increase Urban Parkland?

Last week we attended The Raben Group’s policy breakfast with Carol Coletta, president of CEOs for Cities. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an update on the Talent Dividend Prize competition, which will award $1 million in advertising dollars to the city or metro region that shows the greatest improvement in college attainment over the next four years. Research shows that a city’s economic success (measured in per capita income) is strongly correlated to the number of college graduates who live there, and the competition encourages teams of urban leaders to work together.

According to Coletta, “58 percent of a city’s economic success can be attributed to the percentage of the adult population with a college degree. In Chicago, there is a $7.2 billion annual increase in personal income when college attainment rises by one percentage point. This is greater than the payroll of the largest employer in the city.”

In New York, according to Dr. Nancy L. Zimpher, Chancellor of SUNY and Chair of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, “for every one percentage point increase in college graduation rate of the city’s population, New Yorkers will earn an additional $17.5 billion each year.”

CEOs for Cities believes there are three driving factors that influence the growth of cities: quality of talent, quality of place and quality of opportunity. We at City Parks Blog are most interested in quality of place, the parks and green spaces that attract and retain people to cities in the first place. The Center for City Park Excellence has identified seven measurable attributes of city park systems – property value, tourism, direct use, health, community cohesion, clean water, and clean air – that provide economic value to municipalities. These economic value studies have been done in 10 cities and two counties across the country.

It would be interesting to see if there is a direct link between college attainment and the quality of urban park systems. The idea is that more college graduates in a city could lead to more advocates for parks, which in turn leads to more funding and stewardship for parks, thus creating an overall stronger and healthier park system.

CEOs for Cites and its partners will host a launch event for cities that register for the Talent Dividend Prize competition on May 10, 2011 in Chicago, and the winner will be announced in September 2014.

The Talent Dividend Prize competition is open to all U.S. cities with a metropolitan population of 500,000, or the largest metropolitan area in a state based on 2009 American Community Survey data. (This equates to 108 municipalities.) Each metropolitan area is required to register and submit annual documentation of its educational attainment efforts in order to be considered for the prize.

Eligible cities may register here. As of Friday, four cities had completed the application: Little Rock, Louisville, Memphis and Milwaukee. Twenty-five other cities have begun the application process.

Urban leaders from any sector are eligible to register; however, each city is required to appoint a key liaison and a 6-8 member advisory panel composed of leaders from multiple sectors.

CEOs for Cities is a national network of urban leaders who are committed to sustaining and advancing the greatness of America’s cities. The group conducts research and advocacy and develops strategic partnerships on behalf of urban centers.

The prize competition is an outgrowth of City Dividends, CEOs for Cities research that calculated the monetary value to cities and the nation of increasing college attainment rates by one percentage point (Talent Dividend); reducing vehicle miles traveled by one mile per person every day (Green Dividend); and reducing poverty rates by one percentage point (Opportunity Dividend).

The Talent Dividend Prize competition is supported by The Kresge Foundation and Lumina Foundation for Education. Registration for the prize is now open and will close on May 1, 2011.

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