Gates Foundation: Grants for STEM Higher Education


OVERVIEW: Gates’ support for education prioritizes college readiness and increased access to quality higher education. It also supports science research at higher education institutions. Gates's education-specific programs are K-12 Education and Postsecondary Success.

IP TAKE: Gates does not have a STEM-specific program, but it funds many STEM-related education initiatives, especially innovative techniques and scalable practices and grants for research and resource development around academic standards. Institutions of higher education that have science or technology projects can also find support from one of Gates' many non-education programs.

PROFILE: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was founded in 2000 by Bill Gates, co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation, and his wife Melinda.  The foundation sees “equal value in all lives” and seeks to “improve the quality of life for individuals around the world.” Annual giving generally reaches into the billions, and when the Gates Foundation devotes itself to an issue, it can make a significant impact on that cause. Its priorities are diverse but frequently focus on higher education.

Gates’s core goals in the Postsecondary Success program focus on making higher education more “personalized, flexible, clear, and affordable.” The foundation 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." STEM certainly plays a big role in that last concern - ensuring employability for students after they graduate. New technologies also figure prominently into Gates’ higher education approach, as do improved methods for assessing student performance.

Beyond its education-specific programs, there are also many STEM-related postsecondary grants that Gates awards through its other programs. For example, past grantees of science-related grants in health, disease treatment and prevention, medical science, agricultural science research, and technology development through Gates’s U.S., Global Health, and Global Development programs include colleges and universities.

As is the case with much of Gates's grantmaking, science and STEM-related grants often support larger academic institutions. That said, Gates awards hundreds of grants each year, ranging in size from a few hundred to millions of dollars. STEM-related grants can be reviewed via the foundation’s Awarded Grants database.

While science education funding is certainly available through Gates’s Postsecondary Success program, new grantseekers should look into the foundation’s other programs as well.

Unsolicited applications and LOIs are generally not accepted, but grantseekers should check the Grant Opportunities page. In general, though, Gates contacts organizations to solicit grant applications. A list of past grantees can be found on the foundation’s grants database .