Gates Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation broadly supports K-12 students' academic success and college readiness, especially those from minority and low-income communities. Higher education funding typically helps underserved students get into college and ensure they succeed. Key programs for postsecondary grantseekers are College Ready Education and Postsecondary Success.

IP TAKE: The Gates Foundation offers generous grants and comprehensive web resources for potential grantees, but it does not accept unsolicited applications or inquiries.

PROFILE: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, launched in 2000, is believed to be the largest charitable organization in the United States, with almost $38 billion in assets. Its mission is “guided by the belief that every life has equal value” and “works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” The Gates Foundation works both nationally and internationally. scope is international, with major program areas in Global Development, Global Growth and Opportunity, Global Health, and Global Policy and Advocacy. The foundation’s US Program maintains initiatives for K-12 Education, Economic Mobility, Postsecondary Success, and a subset of programs dedicated solely to the State of Washington, where the foundation is headquartered. In contrast, its international funding supports Global Development, Global Growth and Opportunity, Global Health, and Global Policy and Advocacy.

The Gates Foundation’s education grantmaking treats students holistically and does not limit itself to higher education in order to secure student success throughout his or her academic career. Gates’s Postsecondary Success program seeks to "ensure that all low-income young adults have affordable access to a quality postsecondary education that is tailored to their individual needs and educational goals and leads to timely completion of a degree or certificate with labor-market value." This program’s priorities include making college more affordable, especially for disadvantaged students, and increasing the number of students who earn postsecondary credentials. This includes not only bachelor's degrees, but also associate degrees from community colleges. 

Gates also conducts grantmaking directly to higher education. Gates supports success in higher education through its College Ready K-12 Education program, which seeks "to improve student outcomes, particularly for black, Latino, and low-income students" by “investing in networks of schools to solve common problems using evidence-based interventions and data-driven approaches to support continuous learning.” While most of the grants for the College Ready program go to non-academic recipients, universities conducting research or doing other work in this area have earned significant funding from Gates.

Grants may range from tens of thousands to tens of millions of dollars. Grantseekers should review the foundation’s Grants Database for more information on its grantmaking habits. The Gates Foundation generally does not accept unsolicited proposals, although they do offer a short list of Open Application opportunities. The foundation does not award grants to individuals, building projects, or research into disease in developed countries.

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