The Bill and Melinda Gates and Ford Foundations are throwing their weight -- and a combined $6.1 million -- behind a set of programs at Washington State's community colleges that are designed to increase college completion. The Washington State Student Completion Initiative, which the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges is announcing today, will use $5.3 million from Gates and $800,000 from Ford (plus support from the state legislature) to expand two existing programs and start two others. The initiative will extend the state's Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training program to pre-college and college-level degree programs and increase the financial incentives that are now available, through its Student Achievement Initiative, to public colleges that increase the number of students who reach graduation and other milestones. The community college board will also use the money to enroll more students in 80 "gatekeeper" classes by improving their design and creating online versions of them, with open educational resources. And lastly, seven colleges in the Washington system will use the Gates and Ford money to change their math curriculum in a bid to increase by 15 percent the rate at which students successfully complete remedial math.
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