Dennis Littky, 25 Over Fifty-five

A CLASS OF HIS OWN: Dennis Littky has gained the reputation of being an innovative educator by developing projects such as College Unbound, a nontraditional, degree-granting school. 
 / PBN PHOTO/DAVE HANSEN
A CLASS OF HIS OWN: Dennis Littky has gained the reputation of being an innovative educator by developing projects such as College Unbound, a nontraditional, degree-granting school. 
 / PBN PHOTO/DAVE HANSEN

25 Over Fifty-Five 2019 Award Winner
DENNIS LITTKY | President, College Unbound


WHILE RHODE ISLAND is home to world-renowned institutions of higher education, Dennis Littky is focused on helping students he says are underserved by those colleges and universities: adults who started college but, for one reason or another, never finished and didn’t go back.

Littky is the founder of College Unbound, a nontraditional, degree-granting school that has graduated 120 adults since it started in 2009. “If you want to boost the economy and get better jobs and make more money, [we] need to give them skills and a degree,” said Littky. “That’s what I set out to do.”

College Unbound is “the most diverse college in Rhode Island … [with] around 70% people of color; the average [student] age is 38,” Littky said. With an annual budget of $1.5 million, full-time annual tuition capped at $10,000, and federal financial aid available, College Unbound has partnered with United Way of Rhode Island and Providence Community Health Centers, where employees can take classes at their workplace. Littky is in discussions with Citizens Bank, Cox Communications and Ocean State Job Lot to offer College Unbound classes to their employees, as well.

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College Unbound is part of Big Picture Learning, Littky’s nonprofit that established the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center in Providence and more than 175 schools worldwide. Littky’s passion for “starting things and carrying them out” inspired him to develop College Unbound.

Littky’s lifelong educational innovations have earned him recognition – a TV movie and a book – and myriad awards: The Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education; the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Daring Dozen; and Fast Company named Littky No. 4 among 2004’s Top 50 Innovators. Local awards – including the Bank of America Local Hero Award and the New England Higher Education Excellence Award – are most meaningful to Littky.

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