One Million Degrees

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  • Investment to Date $4.6M
  • Students Served 3,467
  • Grantee Since 2013
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One Million Degrees (OMD) empowers highly motivated community college students from low-income backgrounds to succeed in school, work, and life by providing academic, professional, personal, and financial supports. One Million Degrees’ scholarship and development model provides financial assistance through last-dollar scholarships and stipends, three-year workshop programming to build professional and social skills, and personalized coaching and academic assistance.

Grantee Performance

Why We Invested

One Million Degrees (OMD) is enabling community college students from low-income backgrounds to earn their degrees at two to three times the typical rate in Chicago. A randomized controlled trial conducted by the University of Chicago Inclusive Economy Lab validates OMD’s programmatic strength. Results from the study demonstrate that the randomized offer of a spot in the OMD program leads to a statistically significant and substantively meaningful increase in community college enrollment, persistence, and associate’s degree attainment three years after randomization. OMD has consistently focused on growth and has a track record of innovative strategic partnerships to reach more students and realize systems-level change. 

Looking Ahead

OMD’s remarkable performance serves as a proof point for A Better Chicago’s venture philanthropy model. As an early investor in OMD, we recognized its potential to grow exponentially. Since 2013, we’ve provided OMD with more than $4.6 million in unrestricted capital, strategic and management support and other resources—all to enable OMD to innovate and expand its reach.

A Better Chicago supported OMD steadily as it grew from serving 121 students in 2013 to 743 in 2021. We invested capital, facilitated collaborations with other institutions, and helped plan and secure funding for strategic projects, such as a pivotal eight-year randomized controlled trial to quantify its results. Now, OMD is poised to scale its work within systems such as Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago, potentially reaching thousands of Chicago students annually. Research shows that an associate degree translates to $222,000 in additional lifetime earnings. A Better Chicago’s investment in OMD exemplifies how A Better Chicago collaborates with nonprofits to break the cycle of poverty for thousands of Chicago students.