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Learn More About Our College Completion Focus Area


Sand Hill Foundation now welcomes applications from nonprofits focused on helping students thrive and persist through the college years to successful graduation. Eligible grantees must be working with students during their college years to support their academic success, social-emotional fortitude, and career readiness.

In 2013, the foundation commissioned a research report, Barriers to College Completion: An Overview of Bay Area Non-Profits & Solutions, from the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. The report highlighted the economic benefits of college graduation for individuals, families, and communities – and informed a new grantmaking focus area that builds on the foundation’s extensive past work in out-of-school-time and college access programming.

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 Excerpts from the college completion research report:

“In order to remain competitive on a global scale, the United States needs an educated workforce to achieve its economic and social goals. For instance, experts estimate that by 2018, six out of ten jobs in the country will require a college degree. Department of Education statistics state that only 40 percent of American adults currently hold a college degree or diploma, ranking the United States at number 14 amongst OECD countries.

The OECD report also indicates that “the United States has the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world.” Amongst four-year colleges, this rate is about 43 percent nationwide; amongst community colleges, this rate is about 69 percent. These figures, which aim to identify that mere enrollment in college is not enough of an indicator of individual or societal success, point to greater disparities amongst ethnic, income, and gender minorities.

The state of California, specifically, ranks 40th in the country for high school graduates going directly to college. Similarly, it ranks 30th amongst 25-34 year olds with a two-year degree and 23rd amongst 25-34 year olds with a four-year degree.

More leaders in every sector and level of education are recognizing that a low college completion rate means a weaker tax base, more public services, and less safety. In this context, college completion translates into civic responsibility, with citizens who are “more likely to vote, volunteer, exercise, and prepare their own children to succeed in school” (Schramm and Zalesne 2009).

Moreover, since a college degree brings with it approximately 75 percent greater individual lifetime earnings, the implications of not diverting current impediments to success can hamper not only national and state-level economic goals, but also an individual’s ability to break out of the poverty lifecycle.”


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