Press Release

Great Lakes Announces The Degree Project To Boost Students, Promise Programs

Students To Get Scholarships. College Access Community To Get Evidence of What Works.

— Nearly 2,600 of the 7,300 ninth graders in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) are learning of a generous scholarship opportunity in school assemblies today, thanks to The Degree Project. The project is a groundbreaking partnership between MPS and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates (Great Lakes), designed to show every participating student their path to college regardless of finances, while producing hard evidence to demonstrate that promise scholarships are a good investment worth extending to all students.

Each participating student is given the chance to earn a scholarship of up to $12,000 by going to class, getting good grades, and taking other crucial steps to prepare for success in college and in life. Support and encouragement are provided along the way by MPS, Great Lakes, and other community partners. An independently funded evaluation is being conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison to answer a persistent question in the college access community: Do promise programs work?

"Our objective in funding The Degree Project, as with all of our community investments, is to help students realize that education can influence and improve their lives," said Richard D. George, President and Chief Executive Officer of Great Lakes. "The Degree Project begins by giving participating ninth-graders in Milwaukee the opportunity to go to school each day with college as their goal, knowing that when they graduate, their hard work and ambition will be rewarded with a scholarship that can be put towards further education. We hope that their success, as measured in the evaluation component of our project, will serve as evidence of the positive difference that promise scholarships can make for all students and communities."

George goes on to say that other promise programs and the college access community generally will be watching The Degree Project closely, and that this could not have been made possible without MPS.

"Great Lakes has been an enormous supporter of MPS and our students, including the recent grant that allowed us to open the first of what I hope will be many College Access Centers to serve all of Greater Milwaukee," said Gregory E. Thornton, Ed. D., Superintendent of MPS. "They don't just talk-the-talk and they don't walk — they run it when it comes to investing in our students' futures. By offering MPS The Degree Project combined with the College Access Centers, our students are destined to succeed. This is a good day for the future of Milwaukee."

For more information about The Degree Project, visit or contact Amy Kerwin at or (608) 246-1785.

About The Degree Project

The Degree Project is a groundbreaking program to find out what works in boosting high school students' college aspirations, preparation and success. The program sets academic goals for first-time ninth graders at select Milwaukee Public Schools; eligible students who work hard and achieve those goals upon graduating high school receive a scholarship to attend a Wisconsin college or university. The progress of students in the project will be evaluated to help inform future policy and grass-roots efforts to boost college access and economic competitiveness. The Degree Project is funded by Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates in the belief that education has the power to change lives for the better. For more information about The Degree Project, visit, call (877) 201-6491, or email

About Great Lakes

Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates works with schools, lenders, and community organizations to change lives for the better through higher education. Great Lakes supports these partners with financial, educational, and operational resources that help students and families pay for college and build brighter futures. As a leading guarantor and servicer of student loans for over forty years, Great Lakes serves the U.S. Department of Education and over 6,000 schools and 1,100 lenders across the nation. One of the nation's largest integrated providers of student loan services, Great Lakes services more than $85 billion in student loans for over 7.4 million borrower accounts and holds guarantees on approximately $42 billion in FFELP loans. Great Lakes member corporations serve as the designated guarantor for Minnesota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands under the Higher Education Act. Great Lakes is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, with operating centers in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. For additional information, visit