Carnegie Corporation of New York: Grants for College Readiness


OVERVIEW: The Carnegie Corporation is one of the most influential and forward-thinking education funders in the nation. The foundation provides opportunities for college readiness funding through its New Designs and Improving Policy program areas.

IP TAKE: Carnegie does not have a specific college readiness grantmaking program, but funding may still be available through some of its other education funding streams. Competition for grants is fierce, so to raise your project's profile, it's essential to be effective in conveying uniqueness and scope of impact. Also keep an eye out for potential revisions to the foundation's K-12 giving, which is currently under review.

PROFILE: Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 in order to "promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding," the Carnegie Corporation is distinguished as "America's oldest grant making foundation." Today, Carnegie's programs focus on the key issues of "international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy." While the corporation does notably have a program specifically for "Higher Education and Research in Africa," it is Carnegie's Education program that will be of primary interest to U.S.-based college readiness grantseekers.

Carnegie's Education program is designed to ensure "opportunities for American students to learn the skills they need to compete in a global economy." At present, there are three focus areas that fall under this umbrella, all of which are largely STEM-oriented: improving the clarity and expectations of standards and assessments; Teaching and Human Capital Management focused on improvements in faculty "recruitment, training, evaluation, and leadership development"; and New Designs, which focuses on reconceptualizing "how schools use teaching, scheduling, technology, and funding to create new systems for success," with an eye toward differentiation and "personalized instruction."

New Designs is one of Carnegie's largest and best known education funding areas. This program starts with the premise that "all students meet higher standards means redesigning how schools use teaching, scheduling, technology, and funding to create new systems for success." To that end, Carnegie looks to support a "comprehensive approach that seeks to replace the one-size-fits-all approach to learning with personalized instruction."

As the name suggests, this is not the program to approach with a slightly modified status quo approach to secondary and higher education. The current education policy landscape offers a range of opportunities for new approaches to schooling that foster greater college and career readiness, including career pathway programs, early college high schools, and charter schools.

Carnegie grantees are certainly ahead of the pack in these areas. Carnegie was out front in its funding of Common Core-related projects (an area it continues to support), and recent grants have supported innovative efforts in teacher and principal leadership training, STEM programs for both students and teachers, differentiated learning initiatives, improving the performance of underprepared high school students, increasing parental engagement, research on school finance, and trainings in student self-advocacy, just to name a few. Carnegie is also a prominent supporter of 100Kin10, a collaborative effort (profiled here in more detail) that "unites the nation’s top academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, companies, and government agencies to train and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers" by the year 2021.

Carnegie's education investments are substantial: Most grants have fallen in the $100,000 to $500,000 range, with a few $50,000 awards and others reaching upwards of $3 million or higher. For a more complete picture of Carnegie's past funding, its comprehensive grants database is fully searchable and includes all awards dating back to 2004. At the same time, it's important to note that the foundation is currently reviewing its K-12 giving, so fundraisers should review the site periodically to ensure they are up-to-date on Carnegie's priorities and strategy.

It's not easy to secure Carnegie funding, especially for new organizations that don't have a history with the foundation. The foundation does feature an open application process, accepting letters of inquiry throughout the year, but getting on this funder's agenda takes time and requires patience from interested organizations.


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