Gates Seeks Partners to Help Transform Campuses

January 24, 2019

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation this week announced a major new grant program in postsecondary education. To advance its goal of improved student success -- particularly for low-income and first-generation students, students of color, and working adults -- the foundation said it is seeking up to 10 "intermediaries for scale" that can work intensively with colleges and universities over a multiyear period.

The selected organizations, or groups of organizations, will provide connections and guidance to colleges and universities to support them "through the process of comprehensive change" related to student success and completion.

"Our partners’ work has demonstrated that there are innovations that can significantly improve student outcomes, like strengthening advising, tapping the power of digital learning and redesigning remedial education," the foundation said in a written statement.

A growing number of colleges recognize the need to transform themselves to be more student centered, the foundation said. But they will need partners to help get there. The foundation also said this grant will increase substantially the number of colleges it works with directly.

"We liken institutional transformation to a home remodel. People take on the task (and yes, headaches) of remodeling for lots of reasons, but mainly to have their homes better fit the way they live -- more space for a growing family or more flexible space when kids leave home," Patrick Methvin, director of postsecondary success in the foundation's U.S. program, said in a written statement. "In much the same way, colleges and universities are facing the need to remodel themselves to better serve today’s students, a growing number of whom need help navigating a system that was not originally designed for them."

The analogy isn't perfect, Methvin said. Higher education remodeling is more complex and consequential. But the common element is better and more functional design, he said.

"Too many students are missing out on the opportunity to increase their economic and social mobility through higher education not because they aren’t college ready, but because colleges aren’t ready for them," said Methvin.

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