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To grow our impact through strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, our initiatives represent our commitment to working toward systemic change in or through an area of the postsecondary ecosystem. A number of existing and emerging bodies of work are being deepened and expanded as initiatives, and new opportunities will be identified as the Foundation evolves in its learning.

A key aspect of our approach is a commitment to being aware of and responsive to developments in the field of higher education. As a result, we continue to use an open letter of inquiry (LOI) process and reserve funding for projects that do not fit within one of our established initiatives but are connected to one or more of our strategic priorities. This allows us to be flexible and adapt as the higher education landscape evolves.

Staff will determine, based on the LOI, whether a request fits under an existing initiative or falls under our strategically responsive grantmaking and investing portfolio. Visit How to Apply to learn more.

Basic Needs Initiative

Too many college students lack access to basic resources, including food, housing, mental health care and wellbeing, childcare, technology and internet, transportation and more. National data throughout the years has pointed to the growing need students face, with nearly one in four undergrads nationwide facing food insecurity alone pre-pandemic, and COVID-19 and myriad other factors have since exacerbated the problem. Launched in 2019, the Basic Needs Initiative has undertaken a wide array of projects, including launching new supports, scaling existing evidence-based programs and conducting research studies, to further the field's knowledge of supporting students’ basic needs.

Learn more about the Basic Needs Initiative.

CTE Leadership Collaborative Initiative

In 2018, ECMC Foundation launched the CTE Leadership Collaborative (LC), an initiative focused on bringing together diverse perspectives and equipping CTE leaders with the resources and skills needed to advance postsecondary CTE. Through grants made to leading organizations and institutions, ECMC Foundation provided funding for six fellowship programs offering professional development including mentoring and skill-building opportunities; in-person and virtual convenings; writing and presenting about learnings; attending conferences; and participating in capstone projects. Each fellowship program supports leaders from a range of geographies, variety of disciplines and mix of approaches—known as ECMC Foundation Fellows (Fellows)—dedicated to improving postsecondary CTE by addressing field-level research gaps, incorporating evidence-based approaches to student success, deepening related media coverage, improving campus-specific data use, integrating company hiring practices, advancing state-wide policies, and more. While the six grantee partners oversee the majority of the programmatic activities, ECMC Foundation ensures collaboration across programs by convening Fellows on an annual basis, hosting networking events, facilitating communication across Fellows, and offering funding to support cohort members interested in collaborating on projects. 

Learn more about the CTE Leadership Collaborative Initiative.

Men of Color Initiative

Most men of color attend college after high school and hold high aspirations to earn a baccalaureate degree. Despite this population’s potential for impact, negative stereotypes and structural and systemic barriers stand in the way of postsecondary persistence and completion.

A variety of localized programs aim to counter challenges experienced by men of color in college, but there is little quantitative research available on how such programs impact postsecondary outcomes, with few exceptions. By establishing the Men of Color Initiative, ECMC Foundation intends to bring focus to colleges and universities adopting data-informed and equity-centered programs and practices to better serve college students who are men of color.

Learn more about the Men of Color Initiative.

Rural Impact Initiative

In the United States, some 46 million people live in rural areas, and while they graduate high school at higher rates than their urban or suburban counterparts, rural residents have lower college enrollment, persistence and completion rates. When they do matriculate, they often meet significant culture shocks and later find new homes in more urban areas—even though returning to their rural roots is known to spur much-needed economic development, population growth and other positive changes. Because data is scarce, the Rural Impact Initiative aims to enhance the field’s understanding of the unique challenges, opportunities and assets of rural postsecondary institutions and learners and to ultimately strengthen the ecosystem through increased completion and capacity building.

Learn more about the Rural Impact Initiative.

Single Mother Student Success Initiative

Nearly two million single mothers attend college in the United States, representing one in 10 undergraduate students. For this population, applying a racial equity lens is imperative, as nearly one in three Black women and one in four Native women in college are single mothers. Single mother students inherently understand the life-changing impact of a college degree. Single mothers with a high school diploma are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as those with an associate degree. But just 11% of single mother students complete their associate degree on time. As the only national funder focused on supporting these students, ECMC Foundation’s initial investments since 2016 have laid the groundwork for needed systemic change, supporting grantee partners as they helped 15 community colleges better serve more than 19,000 single mother students and made the case for more than $42 million in additional state and federal funding toward student parents.

Learn more about the Single Mother Student Success Initiative.

Transfer and Credit Mobility Initiative

Systems are not in place to effectively support students’ ability to maximize credit applicability and recognize their prior learning. Additionally, there is a lack of aligned national systems and policies in place that prevents students from transferring their credits across institutions, which ultimately extend students’ time to degree completion. As a precursor to the Credit Mobility Initiative, ECMC Foundation launched the Catalyzing Transfer Initiative in 2021, awarding $4.5 million to five organizations working to increase successful transfer of postsecondary credits and timely bachelor’s degree completion through equity-centered projects. Additionally, the Foundation has supported projects that accelerate timely degree completion for students in CTE programs. These projects include the development of new articulation agreements, implementation of policies for prior learning, alignment of noncredit and credit programs, and the establishment of stackable credentials.

Learn more about the Transfer and Credit Mobility Initiative.

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Our Grantees

Stories from the Field

Find stories of innovation and inspiration from our grantee partners, who are working to improve postsecondary outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds.

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