Lumina Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: Lumina Foundation’s grantmaking focuses on competency-based education, prioritizing on programs that help students master job skills, or "competencies."

IP TAKE: Lumina has a $1 billion endowment and narrowly focuses on widening access to higher education. 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, which aims to increase the number of Americans with higher degrees by the stated year.

Lumina’s higher education grantmaking also includes several other strategic priorities. Scaling Affordable Pathways seeks to create a “system for learning beyond high school that assures equitable access to affordable pathways to quality credentials.” Similarly, its Transparent Credentials works on creating a transparent, nationalized system of quality credentials. In contrast, Competency-Based Learning recognizes “measuring academic progress based on demonstrations of what students” can do, while First Credentials for Adults creates pathways to initial credentials for “adults who have not yet pursued education beyond high school.” Lastly, its Quality Assurance program works to ensure that “degrees and workforce credentials lead to better outcomes for students.”

Grants range from $100,000 to $1 million, but may offer more. 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 acceepts 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 through a form available on the foundation’s Grant Programs page (be sure to follow the LOI Guidelines).

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