What's Behind Mott's Gift to Rutgers?

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is a major national funder. Rutgers University is one of countless higher ed institutions. So what's Rutgers doing that enabled it to land a recent $100,000 grant from Mott, on top of an earlier grant the same size two years ago?

It's doing interesting things in the red hot area of college readiness, that's what. 

Mott's first grant, given in 2012was to convene a national conference of stakeholders to “discuss the current context, practice, accomplishments, and challenges for developing and sustaining precollege bridge programming in the United States.” And just recently it made a second grant that will enable the development of  “a college access and success toolkit” for those colleges and high schools interested in starting a  pre-college bridge program as well as support a program evaluation.   

Rutgers received Motts support because it moved strategically from touting the program’s deserved success (out of the 183 highly disadvantaged New Jersey students who enrolled for the five year rigorous program 163 attended college, 98 of them with full scholarships to Rutgers in 2013) to beginning to position itself as a national leader by applying to host a significant conference focused on lessons learned.

All this is very much in line with the foundation's pattern of providing small grants that enable a promising education or community service project to get to the next level by providing appropriate levels technical assistance necessary for the project to gain some national visibility.

Rutgers' work is especially timely in the light of Michigan Supreme Court’s recent decision to roll back the last vestiges of affirmative action in that state. Clearly, Mott sees an important role for philanthropy in promoting pre-collegiate programs given the cut back in minority enrollment and the fact that traditional summer bridge programs may be in need of restructuring.

College readiness is still relatively new terrain and pre-collegiate programs are not nearly as widespread as they could be -- or should be. (See IP's funding guide to College Readiness.) The situation is reminiscent of where after-school programs were back in the mid-1990s, and of course that's an area where Mott had huge success, helping mainstream and and scale up after-school programming when it gave $158 million in technical assistance through the U.S Department of Education’s grants.