Key Points

Five years ago, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation decided to take a strategic approach to offering college scholarships that would address gaps in educational achievement among local students. To increase the impact of its scholarship program, the foundation shifted its emphasis from one-time awards to promoting degree attainment, and determined that the criteria for new scholarships would be based on impact data instead of donor intent.

The Community Scholarship Program awards multiyear scholarships to local students of color, students from low-income families, and first-generation college students, and provides them with a dedicated college success coach to help them successfully navigate through higher education. The program is in the midst of a four-year evaluation of its impact on persistence and degree completion among its scholarship recipients, and early assessments indicate positive outcomes.

This article outlines the evolution of the program, examining its design, implementation, and outcomes to date. To encourage replication in other communities, it concludes with recommendations for other community foundations interested in addressing disparities in access to college and degree attainment in the United States.

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