College Ready Grant

At-risk students who fall even moderately short of academic benchmarks in eighth grade are unlikely to catch up and become college ready in high school. Only one in five places into college-level English upon graduating high school, and just one in 10 places into college-level math. The rest—a sizable majority—place into remedial courses, and face bleak odds of ever completing college.

Our College Ready grant tackles this sobering reality head on by funding established programs equipped to help at-risk high school students improve math and English achievement, so they arrive on campus ready to succeed in college-level courses. The time, attention, tutoring, and skill-building activities these programs provide, through highly qualified educators and tutors, will translate into brighter futures for students in college and beyond.

2015-2017 Grants


$4.2 million in College Ready Grants were awarded to nine programs on April 23, 2015. Each will provide extra academic instruction to at-risk high school students over the course of their junior and senior years. As they move more of these students to college readiness benchmarks, they will boost their chances for success in the college-level math and English courses that are key to ultimately earning a degree or other credential.


Completing college is a proven way for disadvantaged students to build better lives, but too many never make it past their first year on campus. Why? Many disadvantaged students score below benchmarks widely used to assess readiness for college-level work, which means they are placed into one or more developmental (or remedial) courses. Developmental courses are supposed to get these students ready to do college-level work—but too often end up sapping their spirit, weakening their resolve, and straining already fragile finances instead. And too few ever make it into the college-level courses they need to complete their programs. The result: students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and first-generation students who score below college-readiness benchmarks complete college at much lower rates than students meeting those benchmarks.

Readiness for college-level math and English is especially crucial, as measured by how students score on college placement tests like the ACT. A shocking 81% of at-risk students taking the ACT fall short of benchmark scores for college readiness in math, 77% fall short in reading, and a solid majority of 59% fall short in English.*

Because learning gaps tend to widen over time, it's very difficult for students to close those gaps in high school. ACT has reported troubling outcomes that illustrate the problem our grant seeks to address:

  • When it comes to reading benchmarks, only 19% of low-income students who are moderately off track in grade 8 get on track by grade 11 or 12.*
  • With math benchmarks, only 9% of low-income students who are moderately off track in grade 8 get on track by grade 11 or 12.*
  • Even among low-income students who are on track in grade 8, only 62% remain on track by grade 11 or 12 with reading benchmarks and only 48%—less than half—remain on track with math.*

* ACT, Catching Up to College and Career Readiness: The Challenge Is Greater for At-Risk Students, 2014


We learned from making one-year College Ready grants in the past that extra academic support can work. At-risk students in funded programs have increased their math and English skills, and moved test scores closer to benchmarks predicting success in college courses. But we also learned that one year is not enough, and concluded that adding a second year of extra support and instruction will help greater numbers of students achieve college readiness.

So we've expanded our 2015-2017 College Ready grants to give the more than 800 students in our nine funded programs two full academic years' worth of proven support, over their junior and senior years. We're eager to learn how adding this second year translates into added achievement for these students. Each of them has so much to gain from higher education, and we expect to see more of the graduates of funded programs succeeding in college courses their first semester. Accomplishing this will give students the most solid footing possible for ultimately earning their degree or credential and successfully moving into promising careers.


Contact Program Manager Nikki Wachter at or (888) 889-3299.