Gates Foundation Announces Grants to Community Colleges

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced grants to 15 community colleges and five states. The gifts total $16.5 million (with each college receiving $743,000 over three years), and are focused on strengthening remedial education programs to improve retention and graduation rates.

The foundation is seeking to empower institutions to tailor their instruction to struggling students, thereby increasing students’ chances of completing coursework and degree requirements. The program is called the Developmental Education Initiative.

It builds on an existing national initiative, “Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count,” that since its inception in 2004 has successfully leveraged tutorials, technologies and mentorships, among other tactics, to increase graduation rates, particularly those of low-income and minority students.

Within the 15 community colleges selected as recipients of this gift, more than 133,000 students are enrolled in remedial education courses; that number represents a 16 to 20 percent improvement since the Achieving the Dream initiative launched five years ago. Similar improvement going forward is expected as a result of this gift.

The Gates Foundation release cites a recent report from Jobs for the Future, finding that nearly 60 percent of students enrolled at community colleges rely on remedial classes. For low-income and minority students, that number exceeds 90 percent.

Remedial classes often suffer high attrition rates, with few students completing classes and going on to graduate. To combat that, the Gates Foundation gift has put forth stipulations specific to each campus as to how the remedial education funds should be spent.

State grants (to Connecticut, Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia) are intended to support implementation of new data collection systems that will help gauge the effects of these remedial programs.

In this venture, the Gates Foundation has partnered with MDC, Inc., a community improvement organization focused in the South, and the Lumina Foundation for Education.

A full list of the recipients of this grant follows:

State of Connecticut

Housatonic Community College (Conn.)

Norwalk Community College (Conn.)

State of Florida

Valencia Community College (Fla.)

Guilford Technical Community College (N.C.)

State of Ohio

Cuyahoga Community College (Ohio)

Jefferson Community College (Ohio)

North Central State College (Ohio)

Sinclair Community College (Ohio)

Zane State College (Ohio)

State of Texas

Coastal Bend College (Texas)

El Paso Community College (Texas)

Houston Community College (Texas)

South Texas College (Texas)

State of Virginia

Danville Community College (Va.)

Patrick Henry Community College (Va.)


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