Program Area Priorities

The Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation is interested in supporting access to college and increasing postsecondary opportunities and success. The Foundation funds direct service and programs in these interest areas, as well as applied research or evaluation intended to develop or improve evidence-based programming. Education grants are made to organizations that work within the city limits of Chicago and Los Angeles only.

College access

Getting students to college:

  • Prepare students to apply and enroll in college
  • Ensure that students are supported during the summer before the start of college
  • Follow and support students through at least the first year of college

Postsecondary Opportunities and Success

College Completion – Getting students through college

  • Focus on freshman to sophomore year retention
  • Connect students with college/university resources
  • Provide supports needed for college completion, including both Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees

Career Success – Making successful transitions from college to career

  • Provide supports needed to build students’ ability to access and attain a quality first job
  • Connect employers and education institutions

Progressive Pathways – Progressively building toward college and career success

  • Provide guidance and support for students who:
    • Do not immediately pursue a college degree through one compact 2-year or 4-year experience
    • Progressively build toward a college degree
    • Move in, out, and in between higher education institutions
    • Alternate between education, training, and workforce participation
  • Connect students to vocational, training, and apprenticeship opportunities
  • Assist students in earning stackable credentials with economic value

The Foundation’s focus on these initiatives within Education is based on a commitment to increase opportunity and life success for students–specifically, supporting postsecondary opportunities for ethnic minority, first generation students from low-income communities. An applicant need not address all these initiatives, although more competitive organizations tend to address a wider spectrum of student success (e.g., both preparing students for the transition from high school to college and supporting college completion). We may not make grants in all these initiatives at any one time, but we are interested in exploring and learning more about these areas.

Our grantmaking will support the efforts of nonprofit organizations; individual public schools in Chicago and Los Angeles; CPS and LAUSD school districts; institutions of higher education; or any of the above working together in collaboration. We are interested in supporting high quality programs that achieve meaningful outcomes for students; in finding systemic, innovative solutions that promote collaboration among stakeholders; and in engaging in deep and substantive relationships with grantees.

Program Criteria

The following is a list of program and/or research criteria for the Foundation’s priority areas. The criteria are generally agreed upon as those that best support students in accessing and completing college. While there is not a minimum number of criteria that applicants must meet, the most competitive proposals–and successful programs–will incorporate a significant number of the best practices identified below:

College Access

  • Strong academic preparation
  • Intensive college counseling and advising, application assistance
  • Focus on college “match” and “fit”
  • High-quality ACT/SAT test prep
  • Individualized supports – course planning, GPA management, remedial support, credit recovery
  • Mentoring and supportive adult relationships
  • Comprehensive college-going culture
  • Transition coaching – touch points during high school, seamless “handoff” between high school and college, extended support into college
  • Family engagement and education
  • Financial literacy/advising for students and families (scholarship support)
  • Developing and strengthening social and emotional learning/nonacademic skills
  • Pre-college experiences and college visits
  • Leadership development opportunities
  • Accurate and system-wide data tracking system to monitor all college-related work
  • Alumni tracking and support
  • Summer support – particularly between high school and college
  • Strong and collaborative relationships/partnerships with colleges and universities

College Completion

  • Transition coaching – touch points during high school, seamless “handoff” between high school and college, extended support into college
  • Comprehensive freshman orientation process
  • Access to remedial support as needed
  • Ongoing financial counseling and support – e.g., access to emergency funds
  • Peer group support and mentoring – creating and maintaining student cohorts
  • Academic advising – registration, selecting a major, managing credits required for course of study and graduation
  • Comprehensive nonacademic advising – time management, study skills, connecting to resources, helping students acclimate, fostering a sense of belonging and ability to be successful
  • Focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) and how SEL supports college persistence and completion
  • High-touch, frequent, individualized, and relationship-driven advising
  • Mentoring and supportive adult relationships
  • Family engagement and support
  • Financial literacy and advising for students and families
  • Coordination of efforts between nonprofits and colleges/universities
  • Accurate and system-wide data tracking