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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday announced a new $20 million grant program for 12 organizations that will act as intermediaries between a broad set of partner groups and colleges that are attempting substantial transformations around student success.

"Pressure is mounting for colleges and universities to transform -- demand for an educated workforce is rising, financial pressures are intensifying and public confidence is wavering," the foundation said in a written statement. "A growing number of institutions are embracing the need to transform, and they seek networking, resources and guidance for their efforts."

The foundation selected the dozen recipients of the two-year grants (see list, below) after first announcing the project a year ago. Foundation officials compared the role of the intermediaries to that of a general contractor in a home renovation, where the intermediaries will help colleges find the right partners (or subcontractors) to help them make fundamental changes in their culture, organizational structure and business models to better meet the evolving needs of students.

The intermediaries were picked in part because they are trusted by colleges, the foundation said. Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit group, served as a test case for Gates in creating the program, which it calls an experiment.

The foundation currently works with a core group of 30 colleges and universities on student success, its so-called Frontier Set. With the help of intermediaries, Gates hopes to expand this group to 300 institutions.

Collectively, the intermediaries currently work with or represent roughly three-quarters of the nation's community colleges and public, four-year institutions.

These groups "have demonstrated commitment and experience in supporting institutions as they reduce college success disparities by race and income; promoting continuous learning and improvement through the use of data; and identifying, implementing and evaluating significant campus-level changes in policy and practice," the foundation said.

The intermediaries are:

  • Achieving the Dream
  • American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • American Indian Higher Education Consortium
  • Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • Complete College America
  • E3 Alliance
  • Excelencia in Education
  • Growing Inland Achievement
  • John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education
  • MDRC
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • UNCF