College Futures Foundation provides leadership and partnership for those working to open doors and remove the systemic and institutional barriers to college completion that disproportionately affect students who are low-income and historically underrepresented in higher education. We award grants to partner organizations that address key transitions for students in the postsecondary continuum through changes in institutional policies, procedures, and operations.

To achieve our goal of increasing the rate of bachelor’s degrees earned among these student populations, we have adopted a strategy with three interrelated elements:

Successful Transitions: Institutions ensure student readiness and effective transitions along the degree completion pathway, with special focus on transitions from secondary school to college, and from community college to four-year colleges and universities.

For this strategy element, we emphasize the kind of support offered to students, with particular interest in ways students are informed and enabled to make decisions regarding college going, enrollment, persistence, and success.

Aligned Institutions: Regional partnerships align leaders, resources, and decision-making among high schools, colleges, and their partners to advance student progress toward bachelor’s degrees.

For this strategy element, we are exploring regional partnership models by identifying successful inter-segmental approaches emerging at the local level, and helping to expand new regional structures that address longstanding obstacles to successful student transitions from K-12 through to a bachelor’s degree.

Improved Policy and Practice: Policymakers and practitioners address gaps between policies and practices at all levels affecting student success.

For this strategy element, we support changes in state, educational, and institutional systems and policies that influence higher education structures, budgeting, finance, and governance to minimize or eliminate barriers to student success.

Strategy Overview


Our strategic approach is student-centered and informed by student perspectives. This means that we gather, disaggregate, and analyze data to understand differences in student experiences and outcomes. We also focus on the perspective of students as they navigate the complex landscape to and through college. Through these means, we identify barriers and gaps between institutions, systems, and supports that can be addressed to better serve underrepresented students.

Cross-Cutting Principles

Our strategy is grounded in these cross-cutting principles:

Focus attention on students. We focus on the experience and success of low-income and underrepresented students in higher education and encourage institutions to focus on and track student success.

Use data effectively. We work with our grantees and their partners to set clear goals for student success and degree attainment, and develop processes for monitoring progress that include embedded feedback and learning loops. We promote the use of data that fosters innovation, inquiry, and local solutions to overcoming college transition and degree completion barriers.

Emphasize regional approaches. We respond to California’s size and diversity with strategies tailored to fit real economic, cultural, and institutional differences across the regions. Moreover, solutions to the challenges facing students must be grounded in local data and be relevant to their communities and cultures.

Value the role of local cross-sector leadership. We recognize that creative and effective support for students must come from leaders in education, business, community, and all areas of life who are committed to improving college attainment for low-income students in their communities.

Ensure resource allocation into decision-making. We ensure, wherever appropriate, that a fiscal perspective is integrated into improved processes at the postsecondary institution and system-wide levels by aligning spending with goals and priorities.

Build capacity to empower leadership. We seek to help local leaders access and use regional and inter-segmental data to pinpoint issues, identify interventions, and adopt new policies, practices, and procedures that help students succeed. We are not prescriptive in the specific changes that we expect institutions to make; rather we support discovery, experimentation, and innovation to empower leadership with the language, skills, and tools to address barriers and drive change.

Applying for Grants

To learn more about the Foundation’s grantmaking, visit our Grant Seekers page.