The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced grants totaling $69 million to organizations working to improve college enrollment and completion rates in the United States.
The grants were awarded as part of a new initiative designed to double the number of low-income students who earn a postsecondary degree by the age of 26 — an increase of approximately 250,000 graduates each year. Leveraging its ongoing efforts to improve college-ready graduation rates, the foundation will work to build commitments among key policy makers and business and community leaders to increase postsecondary completions rates; accelerate success in remedial courses at community colleges; and ensure that young people have the financial, social, and academic support to succeed in college.
In the meantime, grantees will work to establish an evidence base for change through awareness-raising research and reports and the development of policy recommendations to drive greater access to and completion of postsecondary programs. Grants were awarded to twenty-two organizations, including $16.5 million over four years to MDC; $14 million over four years to MDRC; $6 million over three years to YouthBuild USA; $7.6 million over five years to the University of California, Los Angeles; $5.6 million over four years to the National Youth Employment Coalition; and $5.4 million over three years to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
While the rate of high school students attending college in the U.S. continues to rank among the highest in the world, most American students who enroll in college will never graduate. Overall, the U.S. postsecondary completion rate currently ties for tenth among industrialized nations, while only about 25 percent of low-income students and 20 percent of African-American and Hispanic students will earn a postsecondary degree.
"There is no greater door to opportunity in this country than access to a quality education," said Allan Golston, president of the foundation's U.S. program. "Today, Americans without a college education live close to the poverty line for a family of four. That is why we are making a long-term commitment to dramatically increase college completion — a goal that is both ambitious and necessary."