Philanthropy in higher education focuses on student access, success

Increasing low-income and first-generation students’ college access and success is a top priority for private foundations active in higher education philanthropy, according to a new report by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) and the TIAA Institute.

More than 90 percent of the 76 foundations surveyed indicated that they award grants within the “student access and success” issue area, and “this trend is consistent across local, regional and national funders of all sizes,” the report notes. Participating foundations ranged in size from $1 million to “well over $1 billion in assets.”

“That was really something that we didn’t hear as much two and three years ago when we were doing our first round of research,” Amy Holmes, a director at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) and co-author of the report, told Barron’s.

Related: $100M gift to UVA will support scholarships for first-gen students >

Growing interest in career readiness, community colleges

The survey also revealed that foundations are increasingly viewing education as a tool for attaining career sustainability. And, although community colleges have been overlooked in the past—only 1.5 percent of $43.6 billion raised by colleges and universities in 2017 went to two-year institutions—Holmes says foundations “increasingly see community colleges as an important part of their giving strategies.”

The report also calls attention to the significant grant dollars going to networks of schools working together to achieve overlapping objectives. The report notes that giving to networks of schools or membership associations provides “greater efficiency in giving, because funders can create positive impact on multiple campuses through a single grant, especially when schools share common needs and are willing to implement an initiative collaboratively.”

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