Community Philanthropy for Student Success

It’s a hard truth: Scholarship practices have not kept pace with what students need today. Many scholarships are merit-based, in effect serving as a well-deserved reward for students who have excelled in high school—regardless of whether or not these young people and their families have financial need. But research shows that need-based scholarships effectively boost college enrollment among low-income students, providing incentive that contributes to student persistence and success in postsecondary education.

We partner with community foundations across California to improve the economic future of their communities by increasing educational opportunity and attainment.  Our work originally focused on growing the number of strategic, needs-based scholarships and related student services so that community foundations could more effectively address their communities’ college attainment gaps. Through this partnership, we are discovering that, in addition to shifting their approach to scholarships, community foundations can expand their impact as leaders in regional education efforts.

Initiative Intent

The goal of Community Philanthropy for Student Success is to increase college attainment in regions with large numbers of low-income youth. Participating community foundations seek to:

Play a leadership role in their communities to help eliminate systemic barriers to college completion for low-income and underrepresented students in their regions.

Provide scholarship and advising support for low-income students, particularly those underrepresented in higher education, to prepare them to apply, enroll in, and complete college.

Attract funds from local donors to provide long-term funding for strategic, need-based scholarships.

Our Focus

We advance this intent by providing three key ingredients:

Financial support that community foundations use to strengthen and expand their leadership roles in regional educational movements, as well as support to make scholarships and attract local donors with matching funds, thereby building new scholarship assets.

Technical assistance that community foundations use to strengthen their capacity to direct leadership toward strengthening their communities’ college-success culture, reaching out and building relationships with donors, supporting public awareness, and using community data to support their growing community leadership roles related to educational attainment.

Research and evaluation based on collecting data about scholarship students to help community foundations (and their donors) track progress, assess impact, and generate lessons that can improve results.

Community Foundation Partners

Our community foundation partners are important allies committed to advancing college completion for low-income youth in their communities. They are public organizations devoted to quality of life in their regions and are viewed as civic leaders in their communities, with trusted donor relationships, deep knowledge of local players at work on education issues, and extensive experience administering scholarships. This initiative supports community foundations to use these assets more strategically toward improving college completion for low-income and underrepresented young people in their communities.

Through this initiative, College Futures Foundation grants funds for scholarships and expands ongoing local support for needs-based scholarships and related efforts to increase educational attainment through seven community foundations. These organizations serve regions with low college attainment rates and large numbers of low-income students relative to California as a whole.

California Community Foundation (serving Los Angeles County)

Acting as part high-performing mutual fund, part innovation incubator, the California Community Foundation’s Los Angeles Scholars Investment Fund (LASIF) combines multi-year scholarships with additional support and resources proven to help students graduate. The fund supports programs and agencies that:

  • Increase college readiness
  • Help students and families access all available public financial support
  • Provide counseling, mentorship, and other supports designed to get students to and through college
Community Foundation for Monterey County

The Community Foundation for Monterey County has established College Futures Monterey County, an initiative which combines need-based scholarships with college success services to ensure students have the greatest opportunity to get to and through college. The initiative’s student supports include:

  • Outreach to low-income, first generation students
  • Advising students on academic preparation, college admissions, and financial aid and literacy
  • Support for students to access public financial aid and attend a college of their choice that meets their educational and career goals
  • Multi-year scholarships to help students persist and attain a bachelor’s degree
Kern Community Foundation

Kern Futures was created by Kern Community Foundation to increase the level of educational attainment in Kern County. The initiative has three primary strategies:

  • Convening educational leaders to create a data-driven blueprint for student success
  • Establishing a robust portfolio of accessible scholarship funds
  • Developing a comprehensive college success program to support scholarship recipients
Sacramento Region Community Foundation

Through its Capital Area Promise (CAP) Scholars program, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation is partnering with local nonprofits to support college access and success through three avenues:

  • College preparation—delivering comprehensive advising services to ensure that CAP Scholars and their families, especially those who lack college experience, are prepared for the demands of postsecondary education
  • Public financial aid—making sure scholars are aware of and apply for the state and federal aid available to them as low-income students
  • Private scholarships—providing awards that complete the financial aid packages students need to cover the costs of college
Stanislaus Community Foundation

As part of its Stanislaus Futures initiative, the Stanislaus Community Foundation is collaborating with local education partners and philanthropists to provide low-income students the opportunity to achieve their college and career goals. Stanislaus Futures is focusing its efforts on:

  • Access—educating students and their parents about college options and access to financial aid
  • Attain—building strategic, needs-based scholarship funds and invest in students with great financial need
  • Align—working with high school districts and institutions of higher education to embrace best practices
The Community Foundation (serving Riverside and San Bernardino Counties)

The Community Foundation’s Graduate Success program is designed to support the success of low-income students with a two-pronged approach that includes:

  • Providing more needs-based scholarships for students with financial need
  • Supporting students with college preparation and financial services, including counseling services and access to additional grants and public funds
The San Diego Foundation

The San Diego Foundation Community Scholars Initiative expands a more than $3 million-per-year scholarship program to provide additional needs-based financial assistance to low-income and first-generation students to help them prepare for, pay for, and persist through college. The program works to:

  • Eliminate barriers to success for underrepresented students and improve college achievement essential to California’s future
  • Increase unrestricted needs-based scholarship funds for underrepresented students attending college
  • Create greater awareness about challenges underrepresented students face, and convene partners to discuss potential solutions
  • Pursue cross-sector solutions and convene local stakeholders