Tacoma, Wash. – Degrees of Change announced Nalani Linder has been named inaugural director of Tacoma Completes, a new collective impact initiative aimed at closing equity gaps and increasing college persistence and completion rates among Tacoma Public Schools graduates who choose to attend college locally.

Linder has been involved in the work leading to Tacoma Completes since the inception of the effort over two years ago. Prior to this role she served as national director for Ready to Rise, a cohort-based leadership development program for underrepresented college students, also led by Degrees of Change. Linder was born and raised in Tacoma, has two college-age children of her own, and previously ran her own organizational change consulting firm specializing in nonprofit, education and cross-sector collaborations.

“Degrees of Change is excited to partner with the Foundation for Tacoma Students to shape a community-wide approach to improving college success, and we believe Nalani brings the right combination of experience, skill and relationships to provide leadership to this important collective effort,” said Tim Herron, CEO at Degrees of Change.

Linder’s hiring comes as BERK Consulting concludes a five-month-long environmental scan of Tacoma area service providers. The scan included data analysis and literature reviews, focus groups and individual interviews, and discussed the many complex factors that influence whether or not a student stays in college. Issues are academic and unfortunately, often non-academic—such as students needing housing, transportation, employment, and food just to stay in school. Those interviewed for the scan were in unanimous agreement that higher ed institutions alone cannot meet all those needs—nor do they need to. Partnerships like those to be developed through Tacoma Completes can reach and support more students than any individual college program or community service.

“The response thus far to the idea of cross-sector collaboration to help more students complete college has been incredibly encouraging,” said Linder. “Institutions have a lot of great strategies and programming on which to build, and the timing seems ripe to strengthen and develop new partnerships. It’s all very promising. I’m excited to see what develops, and the impact on our community’s students.”

About Tacoma Completes

An important new focus in the broader Graduate Tacoma movement, Tacoma Completes represents a collective impact effort to increase the overall proportion of Tacoma Public Schools’ graduates who persist and complete college at local institutions, while eliminating racial and economic disparities in college completion rates.

Tacoma Completes envisions a comprehensive, coordinated, community-wide system of supports helping all Tacoma Public Schools’ college-goers at local 2- and 4- year institutions to persist through college to graduation.

Tacoma has garnered national recognition for its collective impact effort that raised the high school completion rate by 31 points in eight years, from 55% in 2010 to 86% in 2017.

Over the same period, however, college enrollment, persistence and graduation rates have remained flat. Annually, on average only 55% of Tacoma Public Schools’ graduates enrolled in college within one year of graduating high school; 83% of those persisted to their second year of college; and 54% of those completed their college degree within six years.

Despite individual work by local colleges and community organizations there has been no coordinated effort to align activities across the community to offer any meaningful system of supports to students once they leave high school.

In partnership with Foundation for Tacoma Students and the Tacoma College Support Network, Degrees of Change leads the collective impact effort focused on college completion. Tacoma Completes will initially focus on supporting two institutions—Tacoma Community College and University of Washington Tacoma. It is intended that the initial outcomes and learnings will inform future planning and expansion of partnerships—eventually leading to a community-wide system of support for all Tacoma Public Schools graduates to complete at any local 2- or 4-year institution.

Learn more about Tacoma Completes online at

Learn more about Degrees of Change online at


Nalani Linder, Tacoma Completes Director, Degrees of Change
(253) 444-0014 or

Tim Herron, CEO, Degrees of Change
(253) 444-0011 or