Pell Institute: Travelers’ EDGE a Model to Promote U.S. Education Goals

Marlene Ibsen, vice president of community relations for Travelers Marlene Ibsen, vice president of community relations for Travelers

A study by the Pell Institute says the Travelers education and mentoring program is a model for America’s businesses to help diversify the nation’s workforce and increase the number of students going on to post-secondary education.

The report, “Travelers EDGE: A Model on the Cutting Edge of Corporate College Access and Success Support” says the United States once had the largest percentage of college-educated citizens in the world. That is no longer the case. To re-emerge as a leader in college educated workforce by 2020, a goal laid out by President Obama, the country will need to increase the number of people with college degrees from 41.2 percent to 60 percent of people from age 25 to 64.

However, the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey suggests the number will only rise to just over 46 percent at the current pace, “leaving the nation nearly 24 million degrees shy of the 60 percent target.”

Programs such as Travelers EDGE (Empowering Dreams for Graduation and Employment) “are welcome players in helping to achieve the nation’s overall goals to increase college access and success among its citizens.”

Marlene Ibsen, vice president of community relations for Travelers, says the program does more than supply a scholarship to deserving students. It involves mentoring and provides practical experience in the financial-services industry.

“We are trying to help students that historically have not been able to get a college education and increase their chances for success,” says Ibsen.

She says the Travelers program began five years ago, in partnership with educational institutions in Hartford, Conn.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Baltimore.

The program is a mix of scholarships and collaboration with students and educators, offering support to students and investing time to help nurture them, Ibsen says.

Pell Institute notes that Travelers EDGE scholarships are not awarded to students based on need. Instead, the aim is “to reach a diverse set of students currently under-represented in [insurance and financial services] careers.”

By default, says Ibsen, many of those students turn out to be from low-income families or are first-generation college students.

To date, Ibsen says EDGE has given financial support to 195 candidates resulting in 66 of them obtaining degrees. Of that number, 16 have been hired by Travelers.

Eventually, the program’s aim is to reach down into lower grades and begin the process of preparing future generations for a career path in insurance and financial services.

Travelers, says Ibsen, is hopeful other corporations will become interested in creating similar programs for their professions. She adds that the carrier welcomes discussing with other business institutions how to develop programs to promote their professions and help fund students’ education.

“It is not purely a recruiting tool,” says Ibsen. “Hiring these students is just one of 12 or 13 overall goals that we have set for the program with the partners, so that there is student impact, community impact and company impact. And under company [impact], hiring the talent, which is incredibly important to us, is only one thing that we track and measure, but it doesn’t define the whole program.”

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