Nationwide trends in higher education philanthropy reveal a big push by funders, both locally and nationally, to open college doors to first-generation college students and other underrepresented populations. Foundations including Gates, Lumina, Helios and Irvine have funded programs aimed at preparing more young people for postsecondary education and increasing their access to opportunities at community colleges and leading universitiies.
In Boston, a city with one of the largest concentrations of colleges and universities in the nation, the Boston Foundation recently doled out a pair of grants aimed at boosting college access for students from the city's public school system. Increasing the college graduation rate for low-income, ethnic minority, and first-generation college students from the Boston Public Schools is a key goal of the Boston Foundation.
Once a hotbed of racial division and white flight during the busing crisis of the 1970s, the Boston Public Schools is curently a system in which more than 70 percent of students are Hispanic or African-American. Hispanics alone account for 40 percent of Boston Public Schools enrollment. One of the Boston Foundation's grants targets this population.
The funder awarded $50,000 to Sociedad Latina Inc., a community organization that works to improve educational and economic opportunities for the city's Latino population. The grant from Boston Foundation will support Sociedad Latina's postsecondary coaching program for first-generation college students. Sociedad Latina is a past recipient of Boston Foundation funding.
A second grant, for $43,000, went to the Higher Education Resource Center (HERC) to support its Passport to College program in the city's public schools. Through Passport to College and other efforts, HERC works to increase college access for disadvantaged Boston youth.
Grants such as these are an example of efforts by local and regional funders across the country to address college readiness and access issues in the communities they serve. Local and community-based organizations operating college readiness programs may have an easier time accessing these local funders than the larger national foundations.