Lumina Foundation: Grants for College Readiness

OVERVIEW: Lumina Foundation’s “Goal 2025” program seeks to significantly increase the number of Americans with higher degrees by the stated year. A signature focus of the foundation is competency-based education, which moves from the credit-hour system to focus instead on programs that help students master job skills, or "competencies."

IP TAKE: Lumina has a $1 billion endowment and a tight focus on expanding college access and readiness. Most grants are invitation-only, but the foundation sets a small amount of funding aside for unsolicited proposals.

PROFILE: The Lumina Foundation, based in Indianapolis, is “committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025…[by] helping to design and build an equitable, accessible, responsive and accountable higher education system while fostering a national sense of urgency for action.” Under that banner falls its signature program, Goal 2025.

Lumina’s broad goal is driven by several strategic priorities:

  • Scaling Affordable Pathways supports “[a] system for learning beyond high school that assures equitable access to affordable pathways to quality credentials.”

  • Transparent Credentials believes in “[a] new, national system of transparent, quality credentials exists in which learning is recognized however it occurs, offering every American a chance for a better life.”

  • Competency-Based Learning offers “[a] national expansion of competency-based learning takes place that recognizes measuring academic progress based on demonstrations of what students know and can do.”

  • First Credentials for Adults provide “[p]athways to initial credentials, including workforce certificates and industry certifications, exist for adults who have not yet pursued education beyond high school.”

  • Quality Assurance supports “[a]n integrated quality assurance system that ensures degrees and workforce credentials lead to better outcomes for students and supports responsible efforts to develop new models for learning.”

Grants typically range from $100,000 to $1 million, but may go higher. For a more comprehensive look at Lumina's funding, recent grants can be searched in the foundation’s grants database.

By and large, Lumina accepts grant proposals by invitation only. However, the foundation does leave “a modest amount of grant monies for unsolicited inquiries,” and it also “fund[s] open challenges through innocentive.com to engage creative individuals through open innovation in areas that would transform higher education in America.” Grantseekers may send an unsolicited letter of inquiry at any time of year but it must be done through a form available on the foundation’s Grant Programs page (be sure to follow the LOI Guidelines).

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