The Lumina Foundation has chosen Buffalo as one of its 20 pilot cities in a new effort to increase the number of local residents with high-quality associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.

Lumina, a national nonprofit seeking to increase U.S. college attainment rates to 60 percent, picked cities in which dedicated efforts are already underway, its officials said in a conference call Wednesday.

In Buffalo, that includes the Say Yes Buffalo initiative, which incentivizes high school achievement through the promise of free college tuition and is rolling out several initiatives, including after-school and summer activities and siting a facilitator at every Buffalo public school. It also includes college attainment efforts from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and Medaille College.

“If you intend to be a great 21st century city, increased educational attainment has to be at the heart of everything you do,” said Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, Community Foundation president and CEO. “This partnership opens the door to additional resources which will further the work of Say Yes Buffalo by focusing on college completion.”

The program will include the formulation of an action plan with the help of Lumina and its spectrum of venerable partners, from American Chamber of Commerce Executives to United Way Worldwide. Lumina will make $200,000 available to each of the cities over the next three years, but the biggest thrust of the initiative will be providing current efforts such as Say Yes with expertise beyond its current resources. The goal will be to create a self-sustaining program after the Lumina funding runs out.

“Our intent is to work with employers and civic leaders … to provide resources, knowledge, expertise and, most importantly, the ability to build relationships with other communities through creation of a network,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president and CEO.

Eventually, Lumina will include 75 more communities in the program. The rest of the pilot regions include Albuquerque, N.M.; Boston; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ind.; Dayton, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Greensboro, N.C.; Houston; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Louisville, ; Memphis; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Providence; Quad Cities, Iowa/Ill.; San Antonio; Santa Ana, Calif.; South Seattle/South King County, Wash. and Syracuse.

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