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Gates Gives $35 Million to Boost Community College Graduation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will donate $35 million over the next five years to boost graduation rates at U.S. community colleges.

The program, called “Completion by Design,” will give grants to groups of community colleges in nine states that develop plans to address the needs of low-income students, the Seattle-based foundation said today in a statement. Seventeen percent of first-time, full-time Hispanic students and 14 percent of black students graduate community colleges within three years, compared with 22 percent overall, the foundation said, citing federal data.

“Most students today who are pursuing an education beyond high school are also balancing the demands of work and family,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation and wife of Bill Gates, the billionaire chairman of Microsoft Corp., said in the statement. “Yet colleges haven’t adapted to this new reality. Completion by Design will give enterprising colleges the resources they need to pursue what works for students.”

President Barack Obama today emphasized the role of community colleges in preparing students for the job market, as he announced an initiative linking companies including Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest restaurant chain, and Hartford, Connecticut-based United Technologies Corp. in partnerships with schools. Tomorrow, the White House will hold the first Summit on Community Colleges, hosted by Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden and a teacher at a community college. Melinda Gates is scheduled to speak at the event.

The states whose community colleges were selected to compete for the Completion by Design grants are: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington.

“When I was growing up, we led the world in the number of college degrees awarded,” Melinda Gates said in prepared remarks for tomorrow’s speech. “Now, we’re twelfth. Times have changed, and we must change, too. When community colleges prepare all their students for a successful career, then the future of our economy will be secure.”

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