Philanthropy in Higher Education: Priorities and Approaches of Private Foundations

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors & TIAA Institute / October 2019

Giving Foundations Report

In 2017, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) and the TIAA Institute published a report titled “Achieving Success in Postsecondary Education: Trends in Philanthropy.” Seeking to expand on that research with a larger and more diverse group of foundations, we surveyed members of Grantmakers for Education, a philanthropic affinity group, and conducted interviews with several private foundations that are active in higher education philanthropy. Our findings indicate that top priorities of private foundations that give to higher education include:

• Access and success for low-income, first-generation students
• Career readiness
• Support for public institutions, especially community colleges
• Policy, advocacy, and systems change
• Scholarships
• Faculty support


Giving to each of these issue areas varies by foundation size, with larger foundations being more likely to support policy and systemic change across the entire field of higher education.