Internship at 55,000 Degrees: In Search of College-Educated Adultsby Danny Miller
Internship at 55,000 Degrees: In Search of
Danny Miller, Centre College
A strong education system is a vital part of a strong modern society. Any strong modern culture and economy must include a strong
basis of college-educated adults. However, the number of adults matching that description is not increasing nearly as quickly as is
demand for them. This has spurred several cities around the country to initiate innovative efforts aimed at remedying this problem and
allowing them to stay economically and culturally successful. This past summer, I took an internship with 55,000 Degrees in Louisville, a
group at the heart at one of these efforts, in an attempt to gain an understanding of the reality of this issue, to learn about potential
solutions and improvements, and to begin learning the skills necessary for me to become a leader in the education reform movement.
The individual project which became the centerpiece of my internship was a research paper surveying the
accessibility of state financial aid programs, especially the need-based College Access Program and
Kentucky Tuition Grants, in Jefferson County. This aid, aimed only at the students with most need (Pelleligible students as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid), is therefore a vital part of
the success of the college system as currently constituted; even if it isn’t necessarily the difference
between attending college and not, it may well impact, for example, whether a student is able to go to a
four-year school instead of a community college. The findings of this project were disappointing. From
2010-2013, 78, 568 students have been declared eligible for aid from CAP and/or KTG. Of those, only
24,426 students (31%) actually received funds from these programs, leaving 54,142 students (69%)
Jefferson County CAP/KTG Access Numbers
I spent the summer as an intern with 55,000 Degrees, a group dedicated to increasing the number of adults holding college degrees
in Louisville. In this position, I participated in a variety of experiences. My largest project was an analysis of the effectiveness and
accessibility of the state financial need-based student aid programs, which I presented at the end of the summer to Louisville mayor Greg
Fischer and other prominent members of the Louisville higher education community. I also compiled a great deal of information for the
55,000 Degrees website, most prominently a significant overhaul and expansion of the Frequently Asked Questions Section and the
update and construction of a large-scale scholarship database focusing specifically on scholarships, both national and state- and regionspecific, available to students in Louisville. Finally, I participated in a contributed to several smaller projects and discussions focused on
community engagement and the formation and implementation of education policy and best practices for all levels of the Louisville
education system. These experiences allowed me to learn about not just the glamorous parts of the policy process (press
conferences, high-profile group meetings, etc.,) but also about the hidden, but still vital, “ugly” parts of the process. In addition, this
internship only strengthened my passion for education policy and reform. In the end, this internship not only confirmed my belief that
education reform is necessary, but also showed me both that it is possible and that it is something I’m willing to work for.
Percentage of students who
Academic Total Number Number eligible eligible for
of FAFSAS Filed for award
Academic Abandonment after
55,000 Degrees was founded by Louisville mayor Greg Fischer in 2010 in an attempt to ensure the stability of the
city’s and region’s economic future by infusing them with the college-educated adults necessary to a vital modern
society. Since then, 55,000 Degrees has embarked upon a number of initiatives aimed at all levels of the Louisville
education system as well as community engagement and partnered with local and national businesses and
foundations to make this dream a reality.
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