Ford Foundation: Grants for College Readiness


OVERVIEW: In the world of philanthropy, the Ford Foundation is known and respected worldwide. Until recently, Ford’s major program for college readiness grantseekers was More and Better Learning time, which supported urban out-of-school and afterschool opportunities, but a programmatic restructuring and mission reorientation led Ford to end its efforts in that area. It appears that most K-12 funding will now be funnelled through the foundation’s Youth Opportunity and Learning program, though grantseekers might qualify under other program areas as well.  

IP TAKE: With a plan to reduce the total number of annual grants awarded, securing funding from Ford in coming years will be even more competitive than it already was, but the foundation will still be awarding thousands of grants yearly. Grantseekers will need to pay close attention to the new directions funding might take in light of Ford’s recent programmatic restructuring and wait until inquiries are accepted, starting sometime in early 2016.

PROFILE: Founded in 1936 by Henry Ford's son, Edsel Ford, the Ford Foundation is one of the world's largest and best-known philanthropic organizations. It operates an array of national and international programs. Grantseekers should keep in mind that Ford does not have a specific college readiness grantmaking program. Organizations seeking funding for college readiness programs should focus on Ford's Youth Opportunity and Learning Program.

Until recently, Ford’s funding for youth education came mainly through its More and Better Learning Time initiative, which envisioned a longer school day encompassing instruction time for math, science, the language arts, and the humanities, but college and career readiness activities every day. Its focus was on urban areas, such as New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and the metropolitan Denver region.

Under its new structure, Ford will be focusing on supporting “youth who experience inequality in multiple ways across race, ethnicity, gender, religion, class, sexual identity, and migration status.” Its Youth and Learning program is geared at anyone age 24 and younger, and is composed of two sub-elements:

  • Pathways for Youth Success, which will focus on “public policies and public-private partnerships that recognize the value of youth and investments that strengthen their abilities and opportunities” by helping them move “from secondary to postsecondary education,” in “their transition to quality employment and adult life,” and in the reduction of “barriers that inhibit their progress.”
  • Next-Generation Leadership, which will “support efforts to connect youth with networks, mentors, and movements...through which they can learn social change by doing social change.”

    Countries and regions currently listed as including Youth Opportunity and Learning among their programs are China, all regions of Africa where Ford operates, and the United States.

    Youth and Learning will likely not be the only avenue through which K-12 grantseekers will be able to secure support from Ford. Many of its other programs (Civic Engagement and Government; Creativity and Free Expression; Gender, Ethnic, and Racial Justice; Inclusive Economies; and Internet Freedom) have the potential to touch on this issue in one way or another. Yet the emphasis on the transition “from secondary to postsecondary education” suggests that Pathways for Youth Success will be your best bet for securing college readiness funding.

    While past grant recipients can be searched on the program's grants page, Ford is not accepting proposals or inquiries until it “begin[s] new grant making in early 2016.”


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