SAN FRANCISCO - The Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation has announced the winners of its 2019 Education Innovation Prize challenge. The national competition aims to encourage "development of products and services that can make learning after high school available to more Americans." Lumina Impact Ventures, the social impact investing arm of the foundation, awarded a total of $55,000 to the top three winners.

The finalists pitched their ideas to an audience of investors, foundation partners and business leaders at the Lumina Investing in Future Talent and Education, or LIFTed, gathering in San Francisco.

Miami Dade College in Florida won the Judges' Choice Award and $25,000 for its Accelerated Credentials Training and Skills, or MDC ACTS, program. Lenore Rodicio, executive vice president and provost of Miami Dade College, says the earn-and-learn program will create accelerated training programs for adult learners in high-growth, high-wage industries. 

"For these students, there is a decision that they have to make each and every day that they come to class: 'Do I come to class or do I work extra hours to put food on the table for my family?'" said Rodicio. "What we want to do with MDC ACTS is remove that question, not even have it as a decision point. We want them to be able to both come to school and earn a wage."

Another Florida-based company, Knack, won the Audience Choice Award and $25,000. Knack partners with colleges and universities to create a network of students who serve as tutors, mentors, coaches and advisors.

The runner-up in the competition, earning a $5,000 prize, was the Texas-based Amarillo Area Foundation's No Limits No Excuses program, which uses a mobile app to connect learners with employers, advisors, counselors, volunteer mentors and other resources.

"The prize challenge is one way we’re attracting new ideas, encouraging collaboration, and sparking creativity in addressing the challenge of not enough adults with the skills and credentials they need," said Elizabeth Garlow, an investment officer with Lumina Impact Ventures. "Each year, this competition has allowed us to expand our network and accelerate progress by helping entrepreneurs who are already developing innovative solutions scale their ideas to reach and serve more learners."