Targeted philanthropy urged for higher ed

Higher education funding
Higher education funding

With billions of philanthropic dollars flowing into higher education each year, careful allocation of funds, based on specific community needs, is required in order to achieve maximum impact, a new study says.

To help national and community foundations better allocate their higher-education dollars, the Institute for Higher Education Policy has developed a framework for categorizing U.S. metropolitan areas based on their specific higher-education needs.

The report, “Smart Money: Informing Higher Education Philanthropy,” divides 266 metro areas into four groups based on the community’s rate of attainment of higher-education degrees and the change in that rate over time.

In turn, each quadrant “provides insight into the type of ideal philanthropic intervention that would be most appropriate for that space or community to meet education and economic needs,” the report says.

The “Targeted Programs” quadrant, which contains 22 percent of the metro areas analyzed, is characterized by a relatively high rate of degree attainment and the largest increase in that rate over the past decade.

At the same time, these areas are home to increasing numbers of black and Latinos in poverty, who likely will be considering higher education in the future.

Therefore, the report recommends funders focus their dollars on increasing enrollment among local high-school and community-college students from disadvantaged areas in colleges and universities.

The “Capacity Building” quadrant, representing 16 percent of metro areas, is characterized by somewhat high degree-attainment rates, but relatively low-growth in those rates over the past 10 years.

These areas also have the highest percentage of children ages 18 and younger and the fewest flagship universities.

Therefore, the report recommends funding in these locations be targeted to community colleges to improve facilities and instruction and to increase the number of faculty.

The “Large-Scale Improvement” quadrant contains 36 percent of the locations studied and has the lowest degree-attainment rate and the slowest overall growth in that rate.

Given that these areas tend to be worse off economically than others, the report recommends funding be funneled to pre-college programs, including long-term assistance to K-12 education, college preparatory courses and early college awareness efforts.

The “Workforce Development” quadrant, home to 26 percent of metro areas, has low degree-attainment rates, but those rates have been improving rapidly in recent years.

These areas tend to be economically depressed, in part due to the loss of manufacturing jobs, and therefore would benefit from philanthropic investment in education, training and employment services for adults and displaced workers.

“Linking metropolitan areas by not only their current educational needs, but their historic success at meeting those needs, advances the relevance of place-based strategies for reaching national completion goals while offering a framework for future strategic decision-making,” Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, says in a statement.

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