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Gates Foundation Launches Major Student Success Initiative

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Today, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced the launch of Intermediaries For Scale, a $20 million grant program that will fund 12 existing organizations to help colleges and universities become more student-centered and more attuned to helping “low-income and first-generation students, students of color, and working adults – achieve their educational goals.”

The intermediaries are a collection of organizations that have worked for years promoting college completion and student success agendas. According to Gates, the recipients were selected in part because they are trusted by colleges and universities to be good partners in academic transformation.

The intermediaries include Achieving the Dream, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Complete College America, E3 Alliance, Excelencia in Education Growing, Inland Achievement, John N Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education ,MDRC ,Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and  UNCF.

The Foundation explained that the need for the initiative stemmed from several sources: “Pressure is mounting for colleges and universities to transform themselves to become more student-centered. Changing demographics, increasing demand for educated workers, intensifying financial pressures, and wavering public confidence are pushing a growing number of institutions to rethink and redesign their programs and services.”

According to the press release from Gates, the intermediaries will focus on four priorities:

  • Increasing awareness of colleges’ and universities’ efforts to transform themselves to become more student-centered.
  • Informing campus-level decision-making (and decision-makers) about options, opportunities, and risks related to adopting and implementing policies and practices designed to improve student outcomes.
  • Supporting transformation efforts by providing guidance on changing policies and practices and measuring the impact and effectiveness of those changes.
  • Building connections among colleges and universities and supporting organizations to promote timely and efficient exchange of best practices and lessons learned.

The first phase of the work (2020-2021) will involve the intermediaries building their capacity to help colleges and universities interested in student-centered transformation. The long-term goal of the two-year grants is to expand the work to at least 300 colleges and universities over the next several years.

Promoting student success has become a priority at many institutions, and it has involved a host of policy changes including beefing up student advising, restructuring course schedules, reallocating budgets, revamping the curriculum, and revising financial aid policies. The extent to which faculty at individual institutions buy into these changes remains a crucial ingredient to their longevity and impact, and it will be essential for this latest Gates program to maximize faculty participation if its goals are to be realized.

Source: Forbes – Leadership