Gates Foundation Grants Focus on Community Colleges
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a multi-faceted philanthropic group, has announced $12.9 million in grants aimed at using technology to improve graduation rates and overall education at community colleges throughout the United States.
"We are targeting the best new ideas that hold the greatest promise for improving the odds for low-income young adult learners," said Hilary Pennington, director of education, postsecondary success and special initiatives for the Gates Foundation. "The power of technology is its ability to connect people, foster collaboration, empower learners and teachers, and challenge the status quo."
The grants announced include the following:
- Global Skills for College Completion (GSCC): $3.6 million to use Web 2.0 tools and social media to innovate math and writing basic skills pedagogy, with the aim of an increase in student pass rates in these subjects.
- Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE): $5 million to produce developmental mathematics course materials that will be made available as an open educational resource (OER), with the goal of substantially increasing the number of students meeting the required mathematics standards for admittance to desirable postsecondary educational programs.
- Carnegie Mellon University's Community College Open Learning Initiative (CC-OLI): $2.5 million for the collaborative development, use, evaluation, and continuous improvement of Web-based open learning environments for high-demand "gatekeeper" courses. The learning environments will be developed by teams from more than 40 community colleges across the country. The project will use intelligent tutoring systems, virtual labs, simulations, and extensive assessment and feedback, with a goal of increasing, over the next three years, successful course completion rates in the classes using CC-OLI by 25 percent.
- National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT): $1.8 million to engage community colleges in redesigning developmental math based on proven methods of integrating technology and learner-centered pedagogy. NCAT reports that course redesign at its partner institutions has resulted in an average of 51 percent increase in course completions and 37 percent reduction in instructional costs.
The foundation has stated that the goal of its Postsecondary Success initiative is to double the number of low-income students earning practical degrees or credentials by age 26, and community colleges have the potential to play a critical role in achieving the goal.
Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.