College Unbound Receives $320K Grant from William Penn Foundation to Help School Paraprofessionals Earn Bachelor’s Degrees and Become Full-time Teachers

(Philadelphia, PA) - On May 2, 2023, College Unbound (CU)–an accredited college designed specifically for working adults–received a multi-year grant from the William Penn Foundation which will help the college expand its TA2BA program in Philadelphia.
This innovative program helps school paraprofessionals, including paraeducators, teacher’s aides, student services coordinators, and administrative assistants, pursue careers as full classroom teachers, along a pathway to earn a CU Bachelor’s Degree and receive specialized Teacher Certification support.
While many traditional education pathways are unable to meet the needs of adult learners looking to advance their career prospects, CU has been actively reimagining education, developing credentialed pathways like TA2BA that bridge work experience, education, and skill development.
With this generous grant, CU will expand TA2BA enrollment in Philadelphia from 46 paraprofessionals currently to an additional 100 in the next two years, developing a pipeline for Bachelor’s Degree and Teacher Certification completion for years to come.
The program addresses a dire need in the Philadelphia metro area: near the end of 2022, more than 200 teaching jobs were vacant in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP). And, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, while Pennsylvania issued teaching licenses to 20,000 new teachers a decade ago, last year the state certified only 6,000.
College Unbound’s program is part of a larger, multi-pronged effort by the SDP to address the teacher shortage, drawing from a talented, diverse pool of school paraprofessionals that know their schools and students because they already work there.
With teacher shortages across the country, CU hopes to bring the TA2BA program to more cities across the country in coming years, after initial successes in Providence, RI and Philadelphia.
The long-term benefits of the TA2BA program extend far beyond the students of the School District of Philadelphia. According to a September 2021 report by the Hope Center at Temple University, "Philadelphia remains the poorest of the country’s ten largest cities, and continues to trail Boston, New York City and other U.S. cities in percentage of residents with college degrees. A lack of postsecondary education is associated not only with lower earnings and rates of full employment, but with poorer health and higher rates of suicide. It is imperative that we help Philadelphians finish postsecondary degrees."
This grant will build on existing partnerships CU launched in August 2022 with the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and a partnership launched with Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania in January 2023.
“Our Bachelors Degree in Organizational Leadership and Change enables students to obtain a liberal arts degree that teaches the skills they need to be successful both in their next job and as they advance to leadership roles and become changemakers in their organizations,” said Adam Bush, President and co-founder of College Unbound.
"Teachers are the most important in-school element in students’ early learning. Our investment in College Unbound supports efforts to strengthen and diversify the teacher pipeline in Philadelphia while meeting the need for increased local workforce opportunities," said Jennifer Stavrakos, Interim Director of the Great Learning Program at the William Penn Foundation. "By providing paraprofessionals with this pathway to earn a college degree and an increase in salary, TA2BA builds a cadre of effective, degreed, and certified teachers responsive to a diverse community of learners."