Graduating Is Not Enough: How This Funder Is Backing Student Career Readiness

One of the many reasons that affluent kids get ahead in their careers is because they have a big edge when it comes to internships. They have the family connections to land these positions and, as importantly, can afford to work for little or no money. Meanwhile, lower income kids often have to take whatever jobs pay the best, even if they lead nowhere. 

Various funders have sought to level the internship playing field, but we rarely see big bucks being shelled out for this kind of thing. So we were struck by news that the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation will award $5.2 million in grants to 40 colleges and universities in the Upper Midwest to help students receiving financial aid gain the benefits of paid internships.

That commitment comes on the heels of a new $9 million grant program by Great Lakes to better prepare students for the rigors of college work and to help keep at-risk students on track for college graduation. Clearly, though, the nonprofit federal student loan servicer, which also makes grants, understands that simply graduating college is not enough. Ensuring the career readiness of college students also means connecting them early to the professional world.

Related: Look At This Round of Grants for College Access and Success in the Great Lakes

Great Lakes will award $5.2 million in grants to 40 colleges and universities in the Upper Midwest to help students receiving financial aid gain the benefits of paid internships. The recipient schools will work with area businesses and nonprofits to create paid internships, as well as convert existing unpaid internships into paid ones. The funder hopes these opportunities will help students with financial needs better compete with wealthier peers in the job market. Which makes a whole lot of sense to us.

Great Lakes piloted this program in the 2013-14 academic year, funneling $2.5 million to 19 colleges and universities across the state of Wisconsin. The $5.2 million expansion for 2014-15 will include Wisconsin, as welll as colleges and universities in Ohio, Minnesota, and Iowa. The funder hopes the initiative will benefit more than 2,000 students who might not otherwise benefit from an internship. 

The colleges and universities receiving funds under this new Great Lakes initiative include: Augsburg College, MN, $150,000; Cleveland State University, OH, $113,908; Lawrence University, WI, $150,000; Simpson College, IA, $134,200; and Youngstown State University, OH, $150,000.

With this grant and its previous $8.8 million push to help better prepare students for college work, Great Lakes is one of many funders upping its investment in career readiness.