Magazine article The Presidency

Down to Business

Magazine article The Presidency

Down to Business

Article excerpt

Leticia Moreno Leal was working as a food-industry server in the New York area, but she wanted a better job with more opportunities. So she signed up for a pilot program at LaGuardia Community College of The City University of New York in Long Island City, specializing in medical billing. One of eight students to finish the pilot, Leal secured a position as a medical billing specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine (NY), and after less than a year on the job, she earned a promotion.

Meanwhile, she's continuing her education at LaGuardia, and applying the nine college credits she earned in the pilot toward an associate degree in business administration, focused on health-care management. From there, she plans to transfer to a four-year institution, earn a bachelor's degree, and keep climbing the health-care career ladder.

The pilot has also blossomed: It's now a full-fledged medical billing certificate program involving LaGuardia, Weill Cornell Medicine, the Harvard Business School Club of New York, the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare, and New York City's Department of Small Business Services. The tuition-free, collaborative program graduated 23 students last May-16 of whom were previously unemployed-and 20 so far have landed middleclass jobs in the health field with their newly minted certificates.

That's a remarkable turnaround in these students' lives, and according to LaGuardia President Gail O. Mellow, such partnerships between higher education and other entities are indispensable in making innovative programs like this happen.

"These public and private partnerships are complex," she said, and putting the program together required an investment of time, effort, and resources. But she added: "What we have found is [that] spending time in doing it creates real opportunity for our students. It creates [working adults] who will serve in our community for the long term."

Cross-sector collaborations are just one of the wide array of dynamic strategies and evolutionary initiatives that colleges and universities are using as they begin to flex their entrepreneurial muscles at scale. Leveraging their long-standing roles as talent magnets and knowledge creators amid times of challenge and uncertainty, institutions are achieving positive outcomes with retooled business models and other innovations that strengthen their bottom lines and reinvigorate their academic missions.


LaGuardia is no stranger to the benefits of public-private partnerships. In 2010, Goldman Sachs tapped the college to be its first partner site for 10,000 Small Businesses, a national program that helps small businesses expand, creating jobs and economic growth. The program does this by equipping entrepreneurs with a practical business education, and access to capital and business support services. Leveraging a curriculum developed by Babson College (MA), LaGuardia and other community colleges around the country provide the education component of the partnership.

"It has been an extraordinary learning process," Mellow said. "When we teach small-business owners good accounting, or how to negotiate or to create a framework for growth, these folks learn it right away. It's so exciting to watch how education transforms them, and then they go out and do extraordinarily well." So far the program has served over 6,100 small-business owners across all 50 states. A 2015 report by Babson College found that six months after graduating from the program, 67 percent of participants grew their revenue, and 46 percent created jobs.

For LaGuardia, the partnership has been transformative. The college has used what it has learned from Goldman Sachs to develop more entrepreneurial training for the small-business owners, who point to it as the most important part of the program. Collaborating has been something of an image-changer, as well. "It's an unlikely marriage to use 'Goldman Sachs' and 'LaGuardia Community College' in the same sentence," Mellow said. …

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