Who's Putting Up the Big Bucks for Achieving the Dream?

Achieving the Dream (ATD), which was started by the Lumina Foundation and seven other partners, is the country's largest nonprofit focused on community colleges. It works to close achievement gaps and push evidence-based approaches to higher education with the goal of helping millions of community college students realize their educational and career dreams regardless of socioeconomic status.

This operation has been underway for a number of years, and there is ongoing debate about its effectiveness. Of course, what's interesting to us is the funding side of ATD, so we thought we'd check in on who's bankrolling organization. 

Lumina, of course, has been far and away the biggest backer of Achieving the Dream, putting up more than $75 million for it over the past decade. 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been the second largest supporter of ATD, which is no surprise, given that postsecondary success for low-income students is among the foundation's top priorities. The foundation sank $16 million into creating the infrastructure for Achieving the Dream starting before 2009, and has been supporting it since then, most recently with a $2.4 million grant for general operating support.

Beyond Lumina and Gates, Achieving the Dream has received support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Boston Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Kresge, KnowledgeWorks, Meadows Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Houston Endowment, and other funders.

What's more, the organization's partners include the Aspen Institute, the American Association of Community Colleges, Jobs for the Future, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

In short, ATD has a bevy of heavyweights behind it. 

Achieving the Dream's areas of focus vary, but all relate to its overall goals of improved access and achievement in community colleges. The organization focuses on college readiness, using data to close achievement gaps and improve student outcomes, educational technology, faculty and staff engagement, state policy reform, workforce preparation, and sharing effective practices. To reach its goals, Achieving the Dream operates an extensive network that includes 200 institutions of higher education, state policy teams, and partners and investors in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

Clearly, Achieving the Dream has an ambitious agenda, but just as significant is the stable of major funders that have stuck with the organization over time. This stands as more evidence that funders remain committed to addressing the profound challenges facing community college students and the institutions they attend. 

Many community college students enter college unready for the demands of postsecondary work and must take remedial courses. Worse, many students leave without completing a degree or certificate. So there's a lot of work to do here.