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Recognizing the Transformative Power of Community Colleges

Eye on Strategy by Lynn Alvarez, Vice President, Programs & Strategy

April 18, 2022

Because of the vital role they play in the lives of historically underrepresented students, a majority — 57% — of ECMC Foundation’s core grant funding has supported community colleges and the organizations that serve them. Through our longstanding commitment to this sector, we’ve seen and learned a lot — at a national scale and in 46 states. A 2021 evaluation covering six years of the Foundation’s grantmaking shows that 152 grants focused on community colleges, totaling over $63 million in funding.

While some of these grants go directly to community colleges, projects are more often led by intermediaries working closely with them. Indeed, grantees leveraged our grants to build partnerships with other funders and colleges, resulting in an additional $40.4 million in funding being directed to 172 community colleges and nine systems enrolling more than three million students each year — a majority of whom are women and people of color.

And while each student and institution is unique, ECMC Foundation has, through our grantees, gained key insights:

  • All programs benefit from good data—collecting it, analyzing it, and using findings to inform updates and new developments. We see that strategy paying dividends in programs we fund that prepare students for meaningful careers, improve outcomes for single mother students, and more.

  • Conversations are also key—that’s how institutions can better align campus services with student needs, or educational pathways with employers’ hiring plans. Especially as we emerge from the pandemic, career and technical education (CTE) programming must include partnerships, internships and other connections with local and regional employers to enable students to train for specific roles and go right from graduation into gainful employment.

Community colleges offer an affordable, flexible route for millions of students to develop skills, transfer on to bachelor’s degree programs if they choose, and earn necessary credentials for essential jobs of the future. From co-requisite education to cross-sector pathways to innovative transfer programs, we at ECMC Foundation are so proud to foster solutions that help community colleges and their students bridge the gaps between educational aspirations and achievements. That’s why a significant portion of our core grantmaking has gone towards community colleges—and why we look forward to continuing to advance the sector nationwide. We look forward to working with and learning from you as we continue this journey.

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