Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Postsecondary Success

The foundation’s work in the U.S. is dedicated to increasing economic and social mobility – helping more people access and realize opportunities that will help them live healthy, productive lives. Education, early learning through post-high school, is one of those opportunities. That is why we work with schools, colleges, and universities and the organizations supporting them to help many more students achieve their goals and eliminate attainment gaps by race and income.

Our work in education after high school has demonstrated that there are innovations that can significantly improve student outcomes, like strengthening advising, tapping the power of digital learning, and redesigning remedial education. Through initiatives such as Completion by Design and the Frontier Set, we have seen that implementing these and other innovations leads to a broader focus on institutional transformation.

We define transformation as colleges and universities building their capacity to dramatically improve student outcomes and eliminate success gaps by race and income. This includes having a student-centered mission, using data to make decisions, creating a collaborative environment, setting goals and being accountable for them, and making a commitment to continuous improvement.

The Postsecondary Success strategy’s efforts around institutional transformation fall in three primary areas:

  • Identifying and refining innovative solutions associated with increased student success (e.g. advising, remedial education, digital learning);
  • Forming partnerships with diverse types of colleges and universities to adopt, implement, and scale innovations to dramatically improve student outcomes and developing tools and resources to support those efforts; and
  • Advocating for policy at the state and federal levels that aligns with the goals of increasing student success and eliminating access and success gaps by race and income.

Intermediaries for scale are organizations (or networks of organizations) that will perform four basic functions:

  1. Increase awareness of successful and promising transformation strategies among campus leaders and communities.
  2. Inform key campus-level decisions about change options and strategies and supporting decision-makers.
  3. Support transformation by providing guidance and resources for adopting, implementing, evaluating, and sustaining changes in policy and practice.
  4. Build connections across colleges and universities and other supporting organizations to accelerate and streamline learning and sharing of promising practices.

Pressure is mounting for colleges and universities to transform – increasing demand for an educated workforce coupled with intensifying financial challenges and wavering public confidence – and a growing number of institutions are responding to that pressure. But they need networking, resources and guidance to make the changes needed to better serve today’s students.

The process is open to all organizations that:

  • Are a U.S.-based entity with a mission that includes increasing student success in education after high school as a primary area of focus; and
  • Have a track record of working across multiple colleges and universities serving a significant number of low-income students and students of color.

Additionally, applicants must demonstrate commitment and experience in:

  • Reducing college success disparities by race and income;
  • Promoting continuous learning and improvement through the use of data; and
  • Identifying, implementing, and evaluating significant campus-level changes in policy and practice.

Current grantees and partners are welcome to submit applications. Grantee status will not provide an advantage (or disadvantage) in the selection process.

Organizations are invited to collaborate on a joint application, provided that they have aligned missions, complementary skill sets, and a demonstrated track record of working together. We encourage organizations to consider collaboration, as it may be difficult for a single organization to adequately perform all of the core functions of an intermediary (see What is an intermediary for scale?).

The foundation is seeking up to 10 intermediaries to build their capacity to support colleges and universities in their transformation efforts. We believe that number will provide the geographic and subject matter coverage needed to serve a critical mass of institutions and will assess this as the work unfolds.

The foundation is conducting a rigorous request for proposals (RFP) process to identify the intermediaries. The process has four stages:

Stage 1 / Letter of Interest: Organizations/networks meeting the eligibility criteria (see Who can be an intermediary for scale?) are welcome to submit a brief statement outlining their mission, capabilities, and experience in working with diverse types of colleges and universities. Additional information about letters of interest and instructions for submitting materials is available here.

DEADLINE: March 20, 2019

Stage 2 / Request for Information: A subset of organizations/networks submitting letters of interest will be asked to provide a more detailed summary of their capacity, alignment with foundation approach and priorities, and readiness to contribute to scaling efforts.

DEADLINE: May 10, 2019

Stage 3 / Concept: A subset of organizations/networks responding to the request for information will be asked to prepare a concept paper outlining their approach to the work (i.e. how they would deploy their resources to support colleges and universities in their scaling efforts and share learning across existing partner networks).

DEADLINE: June 28, 2019

Stage 4 / Proposal: A final subset of organizations/networks (up to 10) will work with the foundation to develop full proposals for investment, including: a) a multi-year scope of work; b) progress milestones and metrics; and c) a detailed budget and workplan. Grant awards will be announced in late 2019.

DEADLINE: August/September 2019 (specific date TBD)

Foundation staff will review the applications and make selections at each stage of the process. Outside experts will provide advice and assistance as needed.

An RFP best reflects several of the foundation’s goals for identifying intermediaries: a) provide a fair and equitable opportunity for a wide range of organizations to convey their interest and qualifications; b) broaden and diversify the Postsecondary Success strategy’s grantee and partner portfolio; and c) offer learning opportunities that add value for the participating organizations.

We will host a series of webinars and learning events for interested organizations to provide information about the selection process and the work of the intermediaries, and to promote networking and collaboration. Following is a schedule of these opportunities:

  • Webinar #1: February 13, 2019
  • Learning Event #1: March 5-7, 2019
  • Webinar #2: March 12, 2019
  • Learning Event #2: May 1-2, 2019
  • Learning Event #3: June 6-7, 2019

For additional information about these opportunities, please contact IntermediariesForScaleRFP@gatesfoundation.org.

The first webinar and learning event are intended as supports for prospective partners as they consider whether their organization meets the criteria we’ve outlined and/or complete their Stage 1 / Letter of Interest. Attendance is not required. For additional information about these opportunities, please contact IntermediariesForScaleRFP@gatesfoundation.org.

The grants will support staffing and related expenses, travel, convening support, and technical and informational resources for a “blueprint stage” where intermediaries will assess and build capacity to do four things:

  1. Increase awareness of successful and promising transformation strategies among campus leaders and communities.
  2. Inform key campus-level decisions about change options and strategies and supporting decision-makers.
  3. Support transformation by providing guidance and resources for adapting, implementing, and sustaining changes in policy and practice.
  4. Build connections across colleges and universities and other supporting organizations to accelerate and streamline learning and sharing of promising practices.

The grants will cover up to 18 months of “blueprinting” plans for operating at scale; grant amounts will depend on the specific scope of work for each intermediary.

We expect that the intermediaries will forge partnerships with a range of organizations to deliver the support needed for institutional transformation. While intermediaries are welcome to partner with any organization that can support their work, we expect that they will work closely with the foundation’s current grantees and partners to learn from their experiences. Foundation staff will help facilitate connections with current grantees and partners as needed.

Intermediaries will be assessed on their ability to:

  • Develop a strategic business plan to promote and deliver support to colleges and universities targeted by the foundation.
  • Leverage and strengthen the organizational infrastructure needed to execute the plan (physical, human, financial).
  • Demonstrate alignment with the foundation’s priorities and approach for working with colleges and universities, as well as effective collaboration with other intermediaries and existing foundation grantees and partners.

At the end of the “blueprint phase,” the foundation will evaluate intermediaries’ progress and accomplishments and determine readiness for further activity and engagement with campuses.

If a current grantee or partner is selected as an intermediary, work scope decisions will be made in consultation with that grantee or partner’s program officer.

State agencies that meet our eligibility criteria are welcome to apply.