NEW YORK, 5 March 2010 — The Ford Foundation this week joined with four other foundations to fund a $12 million initiative of Complete College America. The nonprofit is working with states across the country to dramatically increase the number of young Americans who hold a college degree or credential and to narrow the college completion gap among racial and economic groups.

The Challenge

Labor analysts estimate that by 2020 six out of 10 young Americans will need a quality postsecondary degree or credential to ensure access to good jobs and life opportunities. Yet, graduation rates for postsecondary degrees across the nation have changed little over past decades.

Today, less than 40 percent of adults hold an associate or bachelor’s degree, and substantial racial and income gaps persist.

What We’re Doing

Ford’s $1 million grant is part of a larger foundation initiative, Advancing Higher Education Access and Success, which is led by Dr. Jeannie Oakes, director of Educational Opportunity and Scholarship.

The initiative recognizes the importance of higher education as key to improving the life and employment opportunities of all Americans, but particularly those in low-income and minority communities. It acknowledges that sustaining a vibrant democracy in an increasingly complex world demands analytic knowledge, skills, and civic engagement that post-secondary schooling can provide.

“Our focus is on creating robust tuition and financial aid policies that are geared to the needs of disadvantaged and working students; scaling up effective developmental education programs; and forging more transparent pathways from two-year community colleges to colleges and universities that grant bachelor’s degrees,” said Dr. Oakes.

Participating States

Governors from the 17 states—from Hawaii to Connecticut and Tennessee—have already signed on to set completion goals, develop and implement action plans to make sure the goals are reached, and collect and report data on student outcomes to demonstrate the progress that’s being made to remove impediments to college completion.

A comprehensive list of state members can be found online at

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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