College Futures Foundation: Grants for College Readiness


OVERVIEW: The College Access Foundation of California recently changed its name to the College Futures Foundation to better reflect its evolved mission: “More graduates for a thriving California.” This funder now focuses on both college access and college success. Its investments are directed at California only, with a regional focus on the San Joaquin Valley, Inland Southern California, and Los Angeles County.

IP TAKE:  Although the foundation’s mission remains the same —  to help qualified low-income students (in California only) who have financial need attend and graduate from college — some of its strategies have evolved. Those focusing on college readiness and success will have a friend in this funder, but grant applications are by invitation only.

PROFILE: The College Futures Foundation (formerly known as the College Access Foundation of California) sees expanded access to higher education, especially for underrepresented student groups, as an essential element in revitalizing California's economy and securing its future. The foundation was established in 2005 with proceeds from the sale of Chela Education Financing Inc., a student loan company.

By its own accounting, College Futures “awards nearly $20 million in grants annually and has an endowment of nearly $500 million” towards the goal of raising “the rate of bachelor’s degree completion among students who are low-income and have historically low rates of college success.” This it does through three key strategy elements:

  • To “ensure student readiness and effective transitions along the degree completion pathway, with special focus on transitions from high school to college, and from community college to four-year colleges and universities”
  • Regional partnerships between “school districts, colleges, businesses, civic leaders, and other stakeholders...focusing on bachelor’s degree completion as part of a broader regional agenda”
  • “Improved Policy and addressing gaps between policies and implementation at the local, regional, and state levels”

    Towards those goals, College Access has three major initiatives:

    • Community Philanthropy for Student Success, which works “with community foundations to create long-term, sustainable funding for need-based scholarships” 
    • The Higher Education Innovation Initiative, which offers “a platform for postsecondary institutions awarded state innovation dollars to further strengthen and scale their productive new approaches to student success” 
    • Pipeline to Degree, a collaboration “with K-12 and postsecondary institutions to enhance student expectations, preparation, and interventions” to ensure more students enter and graduate from college

    A wide range of organizations located in California or serving youth in the Golden State have received funding from the College Access Foundation. These recipients include nonprofits, chambers of commerce, charter schools, and scholarship funds, and can be searched using the Foundation’s grants database. Partners on particular initiatives are also listed on the pages for those programs.

    One of the foundation's largest previous activities was called Pathways to Success, which worked to link scholarship organizations and student support service providers to better serve low-income students in the area.

    Organizations seeking funding from the College Futures Foundation should demonstrate that they are "working to open doors and remove the systemic and institutional barriers to college completion." Applications are accepted by invitation only.


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