Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Grants for College Readiness


OVERVIEW: For the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, college readiness activities include, but aren't limited to, research to determine how readiness is measured and efforts within school systems to develop activities and supports that ensure more students graduate ready for college and the 21st century workplace.

IP TAKE: The name of the foundation's education funding program says it all: College Ready Education and Postsecondary Success. Any education project — from data usage to teacher effectiveness — should strive toward these goals if you want this funder's support. But a huge number of grantseekers want funding from Gates, so grantseekers should expect a high level of competition whenever RFP’s are announced.

PROFILE:  Founded by technology icon Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, the Gates Foundation's massive scope is based on the simple premise "that all lives have equal value." The foundation therefore seeks "to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live." Internationally, the foundation focuses on less industrialized countries with the goal of "improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty."  Its U.S. Program, meanwhile, is focused on education-related issues with the goal of providing all people (particularly those with limited means) "access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life."

College readiness lies is a primary focus of the Gates Foundation's education funding strategy. Its overall goal is to ensure that students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college, and the foundation strives to achieve that goal by building effective tools and strategies that can be disseminated across the country. Gates is also interested in ensuring that K-12 standards are aligned with postsecondary expectations.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's College Ready Education program encompasses a wide range of K-12 education funding. The program's name itself—College Ready Education—suggests that its funding activities are conducted with an eye toward a common goal: ensuring that students complete high school academically prepared for college. The foundation's main strategies in this program are:

  • Teaching. The foundation supports efforts toward fair and thorough teacher feedback with the goal of identifying areas in need of improvement as well as areas of success.
  • Learning. Gates takes aim at the Common Core becoming “part of the fabric of schools around the country.” The foundation supports classroom material development efforts that not only deepen the students learning and understanding of key Common Core concepts, but also those that help teachers and students work together to facilitate critical thinking skills rather “rote memorization.”
  • Innovation. The foundation supports efforts that use technology and “new generation(s) of courseware that adapts in sophisticated ways to students’ learning needs.” Gates also supports “game-based learning that generates rich data about students’ progress and challenges them with exactly what they need to learn next.”



    College readiness projects funded by Gates have ranged from efforts to help states and school systems implement the Common Core State Standards to research aimed at identifying and developing measurable indicators of student college readiness. Recipients of college readiness grants from this funder have included large public school systems, charter school networks, institutions of higher education, and research outfits.

    The College Ready Education program works hand-in-hand with the foundation's Post-Secondary Success program, and the foundation also offers significant support for efforts in Early Learning. In addition to highlighting a selected group of featured K-12 partners, the foundation also provides a searchable database of past College Ready grantees. It's also worth taking a look at the College Ready Education section of the foundation's Impatient Optimists blog.

    For organization working in the state of Washington, Education Pathways, a sub-area of its Washington State funding, sets the goal of giving all students "the opportunity to start school ready to learn, graduate high school ready for college, and earn a college degree or certificate." In terms of college readiness, this translates into a focus that includes "Improved transitions between preschool and elementary school, middle school and high school, and high school and college," though there is a relatively select group of partners with whom it works in this area.

    Unsurprisingly, competition for Gates's College Ready Education grants is heavy, and many grantees are large, national organizations.  The foundation is not currently accepting unsolicited LOIs for its College Ready Education program, but it does announce grant opportunities on its website as they become available.


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