Insights & News
I have lived and worked most of my life in the great state of California, yet I am consistently amazed by the opportunities and challenges inherent in living in such a large, wonderfully diverse, and multi-layered place. As I approach the close of my first year as President of College Futures Foundation, my appreciation for what it takes to achieve educational equity and meaningful opportunity for California’s diverse students has only deepened. I especially feel inspired by what we could do, working together with the Foundation’s many partners, to improve the college and life outcomes of students and their families for generations to come.
In this letter, I am sharing the new strategic framework the Foundation has created—to shape our programming and grantmaking and to inform how we exercise partnership, leadership, and voice to catalyze systemic change.
Before I outline the major elements of this framework, let me first say that we remain committed to our vision of creating a seamless, student-centered educational path for young people to succeed in college and contribute to the future health and growth of this state. We believe that such a pathway to a bachelor’s degree and beyond should be available to every student in California, regardless of zip code, skin color, or income.
If our mission remains substantially unchanged, then why are we sharing our new strategic framework with you?
We believe that solving California’s higher education and economic inequality problems—particularly the unconscionable gaps that affect young people of color and low-income communities the most—requires more of us. It takes bold leadership. It takes tapping the full complement of tools and resources available to us, including but moving beyond traditional grantmaking. It takes deeper levels of partnership and effort between funders like College Futures Foundation and the many leaders and organizations working in higher education.
Strong partnerships are built on trust and mutual understanding, and that requires openness. This strategy update is our way of being as open and as clear as we can about what we believe and how we are going to approach the Foundation’s work from now on. This update is also a re-affirmation of the work we have always cared about and supported, with a new commitment to deploy leadership, influence, and voice wisely when the situation demands it.
Here are the three strands of our new strategic framework:
- Student-centric Practices: We will work to help K-12 and public higher education institutions implement and scale effective student-centered practices within or across institutions to ensure equitable student outcomes. At its most fundamental level, supporting and scaling student-centric practices means looking at educational success from the perspectives of students and their families, and measuring our impact by more underrepresented students achieving college success. Doing this means that we must do more to eliminate the multiple barriers so many young people face at every step and every transition in the road towards a college degree. In three focus regions of Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, and the San Joaquin Valley, we will focus on strengthening policies and practices that smooth those transitions and support students to move forward.
- Leadership and Governance: We will build commitment, capacity, and alignment across higher education segments, with the ultimate goal of more equitable student outcomes through effective leadership and collaboration. As we all know, educational systems in any state, let alone one as populous and diverse as California, are complex and multi-layered. Innovations and improvements in the educational field often fail to take hold or spread because of silos and lack of coordination within the system. Our focus will be to get the many entities that govern and shape our higher education institutions—such as governing boards, system offices, and faculty governance structures—to pull together in the same direction, so we can institutionalize and spread coordinated student pathways from high school to bachelor’s degrees.
- Finance and Affordability: We will contribute to the development of a sustainable higher education finance system that supports equitable student access and success. California’s higher education finance system places undue burdens on young people of color or young people from low-income communities by making it excessively difficult to understand, plan for, and afford the full cost of attending college. Our strategic focus will be a re-design of California’s higher education finance system with an eye towards sustainability and predictability, in ways that will help more students afford and complete college.
As College Futures moves forward with planning under this new strategic framework, we are emphasizing equity as a core value in everything we do and say. We are committed to our own development as an organization when it comes to living our mission and doing our work in alignment with our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have much to learn, and we look forward to sharing our stories and hearing from you, our partners in this work, about what you are seeing and learning as well.
We have heard from many of you that our efforts to be a respectful partner in this work are valued. In the spirit of partnership, we hope that you will continue to let us know when we are living up to our goals of constructive partnership and leadership, or when we make a mis-step and need to pause and listen.
I speak on behalf of my extraordinary colleagues at the Foundation and our Board when I say that we are deeply grateful to be in this fight with you as champions of student success, working together to realize the dream of an educational path to college and economic opportunity.
President & CEO
College Futures Foundation