Kresge Foundation: Grants for STEM Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Kresge Foundation’s educational grants seek to help lower-income students get into, pay for, and succeed at the postsecondary level, but Kresge's Education Program also features two specific approaches that focus on innovation: Pathways to and through College and Strengthening Institutions. Funding also occasionally supports universities engaged with studying and planning for the effects of climate change.

IP TAKE: Kresge approach increasingly involves support for innovative digital learning projects such as online teaching and learning as well as digital financial planning tools.

PROFILE: Created in 1924 by K-Mart founder Sebastian Kresge, the Kresge Foundation “works to expand opportunities in America's cities through grantmaking and investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, community development in Detroit.” It also funds programs in South Africa.

In terms of the foundation’s education efforts, technology is a priority. This is especially true for projects that are leveraged to help low-income students achieve postsecondary success. This has opened the door for creative ideas that address the needs of today’s college students, from online mentoring to advanced financial aid planning information tools.

Kresge’s Strengthening Pathways To and Through College subprogram is student-focused, and funding goes to help underserved students succeed in college. There are several areas in this subprogram that consistently receive technology grants: projects that improve student technology and those that advance teaching and learning. The development of digital tools that connect students with financial and academic planning information as well as technology training is a singular focus.  Large universities have often been major beneficiaries of Kresge’s gratmaking, but that should not discourage smaller institutions, because Kresge consistently supports community colleges and smaller universities.

The foundation also makes grants through its Building the Capacity of Institutions Focused on Low-income and Underrepresented Students subprogram in order to provide those organizations "the resources they need to expand their reach, impact, and ability to help students succeed." Although traditional administrative areas such as accreditation and curriculum development receive funding, Kresge also supports innovative projects "like e-counseling and online teaching."

It is worth noting that several past higher education grants funded universities in South Africa for purposes such as “increas[ing] access to education,” and especially through the initiative We Succeed, oriented toward improvements in “collection, analysis and integration of student data with research, information technology, academic development, planning and academic divisions” in order to increase student success rates. 

Another area in which universities sometimes receive support is through Kresge's Environment Program, which, as the foundation puts it, "helps communities build environmental, economic and social resilience in the face of climate change." While postsecondary funding through the environment program does not make up the majority of Kresge's Environment funding, universities like Georgetown, Rutgers, the University of Hawai'i, and Notre Dame received six-figure sums for research and planning efforts in line with the program's goals.

For those seeking more detailed information about Kresge’s grants, its How We Fund page and searchable Grant Awards and Social Investments databases are user-friendly and helpful.

Kresge can be an important funder in higher education, but openness to unsolicited inquiries varies. Grantseekers should review the foundation's open requests for proposals, which are listed on the Current Funding Opportunities page. They are also available through the foundation’s email list.