The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced the launch of a $20 million initiative aimed at helping U.S. colleges and universities scale their efforts to improve student outcomes and eliminate racial and income disparities on campus.
To that end, the Intermediaries for Scale initiative has announced grants to thirteen organizations to promote and support student-centered transformation at institutions of higher education, with a focus on low-income and first-generation students, students of color, and working adults. Over the next two years, the grantees — Achieving the Dream, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Complete College America, the E3 Alliance, Excelencia in Education, Growing Inland Achievement, the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, MDRC, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, UNCF, and pilot intermediary Jobs for the Future — will help guide two- and four-year colleges and universities through the process of adopting, implementing, evaluating, and sustaining changes in their policies and practices, including changes in their culture, structure, and operations. According to the foundation, student-centered transformation could include adopting a student-centered mission, using data more consistently to inform decisions, fostering a more collaborative environment on campus, setting more ambitious goals and holding stakeholders accountable for them, and making a commitment to continuous improvement.
Working with organizations in the foundation's innovation and institutional partnerships portfolios, grantees will focus on four priorities: increasing awareness of colleges' and universities' efforts to become more student-centered; informing campus-level decision making about options, opportunities, and risks related to adopting and implementing policies and practices designed to improve student outcomes; providing guidance on changing policies and practices and measuring the impact and effectiveness of those changes; and promoting timely and efficient sharing of best practices and lessons learned.
In the first phase of the initiative (2020-21), the grantees will work to build their capacity to support institutions interested in participating in the initiative, with a longer-term goal of collectively engaging at least three hundred institutions in the effort.
"The transformation that is happening at dozens of institutions must now be expanded to hundreds — and eventually thousands — of colleges and universities," Patrick Methvin, director of postsecondary success in the foundation's U.S. program, wrote in a blog post. "And that work will require a lot of support — strong networks for sharing knowledge and resources, as well as intermediaries that can help colleges and universities tap into these networks and provide advice and support through the transformation process. Over the next two years, the thirteen intermediaries will build and strengthen their capacity to support a dramatically expanded set of institutions."