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Counseling toward completion

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Chicago is putting big effort behind the push to raise degree attainment for city and suburban residents with the newly formed Complete The Degree Center. Formed by four longtime experts in workforce development – One Million Degrees, the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, Women Employed, and the Chicago Workforce Investment Council – the nonprofit aims to help 300,000 Chicago residents who have some college but no degree get their education back on track.
Director Clifton Williams says Complete the Degree goes beyond simply getting people into school or finding financial aid. Each person who commits to working with them is assigned a one-on-one counselor who can help them through whatever issues they might be facing, from finances to child care to academic stress. 
"What we want to do is support them from the day they call us until the day they graduate," Williams says. "We can work with an individual at a time convenient for them." They have counselors contracted in all different time zones – including Hawaii – in order to have someone available when students are.  
Complete the Degree would not exist without the close collaboration of its partners, says Jenny Wittner, associate director of Women Employed. 
"Everyone has put in so much to making this happen," she says. Her organization has worked for better wages for working people and for women's access to education for many years. When women can improve their earning power, the entire family benefits, she notes. 
"Being able to have a postsecondary degree is what gets you into a better job," she says. "It's not just wages but the jobs are more stable, they have more stable hours, and women are able to have their families benefit from a whole lot of different things."

Source: Clifton Williams, Complete the Degree, and Jenny Wittner, Women Employed
Writer: Amy Kuras

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