Earlier this month, the Chancellor’s Office and the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FoundationCCC) announced what is expected to be the largest gift to community colleges in the nation to date. The Jay Pritzker Foundation has pledged $100,000,000 over 20 years to the FoundationCCC to support scholarships and emergency financial aid for students at community colleges within regions of California with the lowest educational attainment rates. 

The purpose of the gift is to increase student success and help eliminate regional achievement gaps in alignment with goal six of the California Community Colleges Vision for Success. Initial beneficiaries will be students at the 34 colleges in the three regions of California with the lowest percentage of adults who possess college degrees: the Inland Empire, the Central Valley and the Far North. These regions also have a high percentage of students without access to broadband, students living below the poverty line, high school students who receive free or reduced price lunch and other factors that make them a priority.

“This unparalleled level of support for our students will be life-changing,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, Chancellor of the California Community Colleges. “We are grateful to the Jay Pritzker Foundation for their generosity and recognition of the California Community Colleges as a vehicle for transformative change.” 
In this first year, FoundationCCC will grant up to $150,000 per college to be distributed to students solely in the form of emergency financial aid, which is critical as students struggle to stay enrolled in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In future years, colleges may use grants to provide a combination of scholarships and some emergency financial aid to students. The scholarship amount of up to $18,500 per student per year is intended to cover the estimated true cost of a student’s community college education which includes such costs as textbooks, instructional materials, transportation, housing, childcare and food.

“Many community college students have difficulty affording basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and childcare. The Jay Pritzker Foundation grant is meant to serve those most in need who have the drive to succeed,” said Daniel Pritzker, President of the Jay Pritzker Foundation. “Community colleges provide equal opportunity to pursue high quality education without incurring crushing debt. We believe education is the key to preserving our democracy and hope others will join in supporting community colleges across the country.”

Community college tuition is priced to be as affordable as possible for prospective students; however, non-tuition expenses create significant financial barriers to college completion. Philanthropic support, such as the newly-announced gift from the Jay Pritzker Foundation, is critical to ensure students have the resources they need to achieve their educational dreams. 

Fulisha Oscar, a student in her last year at Madera Community College who plans to open a center for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse, spoke about just how life-changing these dollars will be for herself and her fellow students:
“I just want to thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Pritzker -- what you guys are doing, your generosity, it’s more than a contribution to us students. It’s a contribution to myself, my children, and all the future women I will be able to help as a result of your generosity.”

Visit the Finish Line Scholars Program page to learn more about the Jay Pritzker Foundation’s $100 million commitment to California community colleges.