Starr Foundation: Grants for STEM Higher Education

OVERVIEW: Most of the Starr Foundation’s higher education funding is directed at scholarship and exchange programs, but colleges and universities have received medical science grants through its Medicine and Healthcare program.

IP TAKE: The Starr Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States, with assets of more than $1 billion, but it does not accept unsolicited proposals or materials. Most of its grantees are either based in or otherwise serve communities in the New York City area, but past grantees include universities around the country.

PROFILE: The Starr Foundation was founded in 1955 by insurance entrepreneur Cornelius Vander Starr, who left his estate to the foundation after his passing in 1968. In addition to education, the foundation supports "medicine and healthcare, human needs, public policy, culture and the environment."

Starr's primary higher education focus prioritizes scholarship organizations and postsecondary schools throughout the United States that offer Starr Foundation-supported scholarships, "need-based financial aid to students seeking to attend secondary and post-secondary schools," and a number of exchange programs that send U.S. students abroad and bring international students to the U.S. 

While Starr's other programs (Culture and the Arts, Human Needs, Public Policy, and the Environment) have not attracted much STEM-related higher education funding, its Medicine and Healthcare focus allocates “significant research grants and grants to assist in the provision of healthcare to under-served communities in New York City and overseas,” with a stated plan to focus increasingly on preventative healthcare going forward.

The most significant grants in this area include at $10 million award to support stem cell research at the University of Miami Medical School and a $6 million endowment for the creation of two professor positions in veterinary medicine at Cornell University.

With these possibilities in mind, it is important to emphasize that Starr no longer accepts unsolicited proposals—or any unsolicited materials, for that matter. Starr is also a fairly low-profile grantmaker, which can prove challenging for new grantseekers.