Gates Foundation Invests in Community Colleges

Foundation focuses on grants for improving technologies at schools.

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With the goal of improving courses and graduation rates at community colleges, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is investing $12.9 million in technology-related education grants for community colleges. This investment comes on the heels of President Obama’s drive to improve U.S. post-secondary education and increase the number of U.S. college graduates.

According to the foundation, more than 75% of first-time students at community colleges do not graduate from their associates degree program within three years. Cited as common causes are lack of academic preparedness for college-level work, juggling their degree program with a job and responsibilities to their family, education costs, or courses being too time-consuming or not engaging enough.

The goal of this initiative is to double the number of low-income students who complete a postsecondary degree program

By introducing new technologies to the community colleges, the Gates Foundation hopes to improve both teaching and learning methods and deliver more flexibility to the course offerings to assist these students. According to Hilary Pennington, the director of education, Postsecondary Success and Special Initiatives for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “We are targeting the best new ideas that hold the greatest promise for improving the odds for low-income young adult learners…. The power of technology is its ability to connect people, foster collaboration, empower learners and teachers, and challenge the status quo.”

The new grants will fund emerging technologies in the classroom. With the addition of online courses, multimedia events, social networking opportunities and educational games, the foundation hopes to make community colleges more flexible, relevant and fun for students.

The grants introduced by the Gates Foundation are:

  • Global Skills for College Completion – The goal of this grant is to improve basic math and writing skills through social media and Web 2.0 methods.
  • Monterey Institute for Technology and Education – This grant focuses on increasing the number of students who meet required math standards and postsecondary schools.
  • Carnegie Mellon University’s Community College Open Learning Initiative – This program strives to develop, evaluate and improve Web-based learning environments for courses that are in high demand.
  • National Center for Academic Transformation – This grant hopes to redesign developmental math at community colleges by integrating technology and focusing on a learner-centered pedagogy.

These education grants are part of the Gates Foundations’ Postsecondary Success Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to double the number of low-income students who complete a postsecondary degree program or earn a credential by age 26.

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