Gates Foundation: Grants for Science Education

OVERVOVERVIEW: Gates approaches most of its grantmaking with justice and economic opportunity in mind, and science education giving is no different. The foundation's support for education is focused on college readiness and access to quality higher education for all. It also puts a lot of support into funding science research at higher ed 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 - as well as 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. Unsolicited applications and LOIs are generally not accepted, but check the site for open LOIs and RFPs.

PROFILE: Among U.S. grantmaking priorities at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is education. At the K-12 level, this means helping more students prepare for, attend, and complete college. To date, this has manifest in support for education reform, including increases in teacher accountability and professional development, expanding the role of charter schools, making learning more personalized, increasing the role of technology, and a key role for academic standards - particularly the Common Core.

For higher education STEM fundraisers, the Postsecondary Success program is the place to start. Broadly speaking, Gates’s core goals in this program are focused on making higher education more “personalized, flexible, clear, and affordable.” The desire here is 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 has a big role to play in that last concern - ensuring employability for students after they graduate. New technologies also figure prominently into Gates’ higher ed approach, as do improved methods for assessing student performance.

Beyond its education-specific programs, there are also many STEM-related postsecondary grants that Gates has awarded through its other programs. For example, colleges and universities have received 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. Through the U.S. program, another recent grant was awarded to a college towards developing a secondary curriculum “with the goal of inspiring [low-income] students to consider a STEM career as a pathway forward.”

As is the case with much of Gates's grantmaking, science and STEM-related grants are often awarded to larger academic institutions. That said, Gates has awarded 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.

To sum up: science education funding is certainly available through Gates’s K-12 and Postsecondary Success programs, but there's room for grantees both large and small through a variety of other avenues, too.

In general, though, Gates contacts organizations to solicit grant applications. While this can make it difficult for first-time grantseekers to obtain funding, the funder lists RFPs through its Grant Opportunities page.