Lumina Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

 

OVERVIEW: Lumina Foundation aligns its grantmaking to the foundation's Goal 2025 program, which seeks to "increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025." 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 laser focus on wider access to higher education. Most grants are invitation-only, but a small amount of funding is set aside to fund 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.

You can get more in-depth detail about Lumina’s Goal 2025 by clicking on the link above or reading the program’s executive summary, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Building a “social movement” around Goal 2025;
  • Advancing and promoting higher education attainment through state and federal policies and engaging higher ed instutions, employers, and major metro areas;
  • Helping academic institutions to create “…new models of student financial support”;
  • Creating new credential systems for colleges and universities; and
  • Creating new higher ed business and finance models.

    To that end, Lumina's 2013-2016 grant-making strategy has focused on “Mobilizing to reach Goal 2025” and “Designing and Building a 21st Century Higher Education System.” Specifically, it seeks to:

    • Mobilize higher education institutions, employers, metro areas, and regions to increase student college success and degree attainment and “to encourage broader adoption of Goal 2025”
    • Advance state and federal policy for increased college degree attainment
    • Create new business and financial models (including for student aid) aid to increase accessibility and affordability
    • Create systems of college credentials “defined by learning and competencies rather than time, clear and transparent pathways to students, high-quality learning, and alignment with workforce needs and trends.”

      One area where the foundation has placed some of its energies is in technology usage. For example, the foundation highlights online learning, competency-based courses, and digital strategies and tools as integral to the future of education. Recent technology grants have included support for online, self-paced university classes as well as university mentoring of public high school students to attract them into STEM careers.

      Yet the most common technology-related grants from Lumina have tended to focus on more and better use of data. Some examples include using data to improve student achievement, inform policy positions, speed up the time to degree completion, and track students’ progress through their postsecondary careers. 

      Lumina also wants to engage the best minds in the country to serve as thought partners in support of its goal to increase college success and postsecondary degree attainment across the country. As recently as 2013, the foundation's Lumina Fellows program selected experts in public policy and practice issues to collaborate with Lumina staff to advance the foundation's strategic plan by analyzing policy issues and recommending solutions, though the current status of this program is unclear.

      For a more comprehensive look at Lumina's funding, recent grants can be searched in the foundation’s grants database.

      By and large, Lumina’s grant proposals are accepted by invitation only. That said, 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.”

      If you plan to send an unsolicited letter of inquiry, it can be submitted any time of the year but must be done through a form available on the foundation’s Grant Programs page (be sure to follow the LOI Guidelines).

      PEOPLE:

      • Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only.)

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