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Strengthening Society through Postsecondary Education

July 31, 2023

Dear ECMC Foundation Community,

Service to others was one of my earliest lessons as a young boy. As the son of migrant farmworkers, we frequently moved in search of seasonal agricultural work until our family settled in El Paso, TX. We lived in a humble home my father built with his own hands. With 10 children and a modest income, resources were scarce. And yet, my parents still gave whatever they had when Mexican immigrants traveling west to California would regularly find our house. Without hesitation, my parents ensured each visitor could have a safe, comfortable place to pause on their long journey to California, with some food and a friendly conversation.

The obligation and opportunity to serve others and embrace civic engagement can be learned inside and beyond the classroom, and it lies at the heart of ECMC Foundation’s commitment to enriching and expanding postsecondary education for all students, with no exception. When I had the distinct honor of delivering the commencement address to National University’s class of 2023 in June, it was also a central purpose of my remarks.

In emphasizing the enormity of the graduates’ achievements, I wanted to convey what their education could mean for them, beyond a fulfilling career with family-sustaining wages. When individuals make measurable progress on their formal academic journey, such as the completion of a college degree, they help strengthen our society. We all benefit from their success and the many sacrifices they endured along the way. This is especially true for students whose path to a degree is more challenging, perhaps with delays or pauses, or in tandem with jobs and family responsibilities.

Our colleges and universities are natural, critical centers for discourse, debate and guidance on civic participation, which undergirds our democratic society. As Rebecca Koenig writes for EdSurge, “Research has indeed found links between higher education and participation in and attitudes toward democracy. People who complete college are more civically active and knowledgeable.”

There’s no question that a postsecondary degree can lead to higher earnings and economic mobility, and much of our work focuses on the importance of higher education’s transformational impact. But when more students earn degrees and certificates, it has much broader implications, and we must embrace the role higher education plays in the healthy functioning of our democracy.

Graduates across the country have a unique vantage point for contributing to civil discourse. When more people engage with higher education, our country is better for it. Many adults in the U.S. never earn a postsecondary degree, and many who start college don’t finish due to systemic failures. Every degree is a win—for the graduate most of all, but also for the ideals that drive ECMC Foundation. 

This month, we marked an unprecedented milestone in the Foundation’s history: $300 million in funding to grantees and investees across the nation who are working to improve the lives of millions of Americans. For nearly 10 years, ECMC Foundation has been at the forefront of innovations that improve postsecondary outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds.

That we’ve reached this point as a strategic grantmaker is truly reflective of the great progress our grantees have made, affecting hundreds of institutions nationwide and inspiring thousands of students, instructors, administrators and advocates. We believe deeply in our mission and in the systemic change our grantees and investees advance.

With the beginning of the 2023–24 academic year ahead, we remain as committed as ever. Whether beginning a first year, returning from a summer break or resuming after a longer pause, the road to completion is challenging for every student. But, no matter what “back to school” means for them, we need all students to succeed—for themselves, their families and the richly diverse communities that comprise our great union.

We are proud of what the ECMC Foundation family has accomplished in just the last decade, and we look forward to discovering what the next decade has in store. And, as I think back to the lessons my parents taught me, I am grateful for the opportunity to lead a Foundation whose work services millions of students across our beloved nation.


Jacob Fraire
President, ECMC Foundation

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