Bill and Melinda Gates put a hefty portion of their billions into philanthropic efforts involving development, healthcare, and – of course – education. The foundation that bears their name sponsors a number of amazing opportunities for impoverished or otherwise marginalized individuals to thrive academically and vocationally, whether they be accessible inside the walls of a classroom or a library. Here are at least 10 of their current projects and strategies that they have in place to ensure that more students across the world obtain the education they need in order to thrive and help build and reinforce their communities.
1. Sponsoring Thrive by Five : Along with many other private and public institutions alike, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Microsoft Corporation work in tandem with Washington State’s Thrive by Five program. Bill Gates even once served as the chair of the board of directors. This nonprofit strives to provide the best possible early learning opportunities for children before entering into kindergarten. Among their myriad projects intended to stimulate small children and grant them with a head start in their education are numerous statewide initiatives that promote and encourage learning at home and libraries as well as in recommended institutions, the building of standardized, efficient models for schools to follow, and nurture partnerships with sponsors and other schools that maximize everyone’s educational potential. Their website outlines 3 extremely specific and altruistic goals that all of their projects follow – “Help create the environment to support early learning and positive child development,” “Make effective early learning programs more available,” and “Be a voice for and assist in building early learning systems.” No matter what service the citizenry takes advantage of, they are met with ideals painstakingly constructed to offer Washington’s youth a fantastic beginning to the schooling that will last them a lifetime.
2. Calling for Financial Aid Reform : Almost anyone who has ever had to deal with the Financial Aid system will freely discuss the various migraines associated with applying, receiving, and paying off their loans. Much of the research they site paints a grim portrait of postsecondary education in America, with at least 7 major points of financial concern for low-income students. Because of these factors, those from a lower socioeconomic bracket drop out of higher education at a much higher rate than their comparatively more fiscally stable contemporaries. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation refers to the current Financial Aid situation as “antiquated and needlessly complex,” and because of this they are utilizing their considerable resources to find a way to streamline the system so that it runs smoothly and allows more lower income students to graduate from college. One such measure the Foundation is currently undertaking involves providing grants to help defray some of the cost of an education. They are also researching the effectiveness of incentives and other means of encouraging financially-strapped students to stay in school instead of dropping out due to monetary concerns. Such reforms are targeted specifically to those struggling in Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington, but will hopefully grow to encompass all Americans in due time.
3. Providing Access to State-of-the-Art Technology : Computers, their peripherals, and the internet all open up numerous educational opportunities for students of all ages. Many institutes of higher learning now offer courses – even entire degrees – online as a cheaper, more convenient alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar campuses. Using the aforementioned research regarding the high rate of low-income students dropping out of college or university prior to graduating, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation seeks to offer grants to purchase technology that encourages financially struggling students to work on their classes and diplomas in a manner that dovetails nicely with their frequently harried schedules without cutting too deeply into their bank accounts. Adaptive software, cutting-edge technologies, digital video, open content, online delivery, and data systems comprise the majority of their focus, as they believe that these form the very core of an education supplemented by the ever-expanding computer industry. At the moment, they are currently testing the myriad ways in which access to the best possible technology encourages students to remain in school and complete their degrees through online courses that work in tandem with their lifestyle needs, trying to find the strategies that work best for everyone involved.
4. Promoting Flexible Postsecondary Education : Even college and university students who do not grapple against financial difficulties still face issues with scheduling their classes. Some still have to contend with full-time jobs and families in addition to an education, feeling stressed and forced to execute a delicate balancing act. The strain only elevates once fiscal concerns and Financial Aid issues begin creeping their way into the equation – and first-generation or low-income college students have it the worst of any demographic. Because The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation believes that education is a right as opposed to a privilege, it seeks to find methods of schooling that provide a great deal of flexibility without sacrificing quality. They are currently working with a number of different state institutions to formulate strategies that provide numerous opportunities without the complete hassle of stopping and starting for multiple semesters to take care of vocational or filial obligations. Accelerated programs and improved programs may both hold the key to providing a valuable education for those trying to study within strict time and/or financial constraints, and at the moment these initiatives are in place as a means of figuring out what works and what does not.
5. Building and Promoting Libraries Worldwide : The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in conjunction with 10 different countries across the globe, is working to build state-of-the-art libraries with books and computer terminals alike in areas that sorely need them. Education extends far beyond classroom walls, and providing impoverished communities with all the necessary and updated resources needed to supplement and support former schooling. They also engage adults seeking further understanding of the world around them as well – and at no added cost, either. Current projects involve hooking up free internet access in libraries around the United States before moving on to Vietnam, Chile, Mexico, Bulgaria, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Botswana, Ukraine, and Romania in later phases. With 40% of Americans unable to access the internet at home, this undertaking opens up numerous vocational and educational doors to a marginalized but still expansive minority – allowing them to apply for better jobs, attend classes, and explore the world in a way that expands their horizons and helps improve their quality of life. The process works closely with each individual library to ensure that all the needs of the surrounding community are met rather than adhering to one strict universal blueprint.
6. Providing a Multitude of Grants : Grants form one of the cornerstones of the social justice projects instigated or supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and they take a 4-part approach to giving them out in 3 separate but interlocking areas. Each of the 4 stages – “Develop Strategy,” “Make Grants,” “Measure Progress,” “and Adjust Strategy” – were created by the Gateses and their colleague Warren Buffett to specifically lead into one another in a cycle rather than a straight linear path. They hope to observe their grants in action to see what works, what does not, and what may need some retooling in order to bolster efficiency and maximize the amount of people being helped. Working with a blind eye turned to national or cultural borders, grants go not only towards educational opportunities such as financial aid, libraries, scholarships, technology, and – of course – schools, these grants also help develop struggling nations (and impoverished sections of wealthy ones), address homelessness and poverty issues, and provide immunizations and treatment for a number of curable and preventable illnesses that many individuals and families sadly cannot afford. Others are set aside to assist in times of national or international emergency, and on a smaller scale the Gateses also financially nurture communities in the Pacific Northwest region they call home.
7. Intensive Partnerships : Intensive partnerships involve a level of commitment far beyond the traditional variety, as one can probably assume. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has worked with a multitude of schools, libraries, and other institutions to organize and mobilize against social and educational issues alike. Memphis City Schools and the associated governing bodies, for example, received a $90 million investment to improve the lives of both the students and the surrounding community. The money addresses different problems that arise from life in a poverty-stricken region by nurturing the schools by improving their Advanced Placement programs, measuring and implementing effective teaching strategies, providing better rewards and incentives for educators, and working directly within the school environments themselves to begin dissolving potentially harmful cultural elements. Similar programs have been put in place in Hillsborough County, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles as well. Ultimately, these programs hope to motivate students towards success in a postsecondary institution and eventually landing a rewarding, satisfying career. Doing so holds the potential to significantly increase the number of degrees conferred in the United States, a number which has been wavered little since the 1970s.
8. Access to Learning Award: Incentives lead to a much greater motivation for individuals and corporations to work harder towards accomplishing a preset goal. Awards, bonuses, benefits, and other gifts stand as entirely win-win situations for all parties involved, and because of them students across the world have far more opportunities with far more qualified teachers and better technology than they otherwise would with their own occasionally meager resources. The Access to Learning Award is given through the Global Libraries portion of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a means of bolstering faith in and rewarding the libraries who foster education in their communities through books, programs, and internet access. Past recipients span the globe from a library in a small, isolated village in Australia to one bringing computers and the internet to Veracruz. Qualified institutions have to adhere to certain criteria before receiving the $1 million prize. Unfortunately, many scams have taken to using the Access to Learning Award as a cover for their shady activities, so the Foundation provides extremely valuable information on how to avoid falling victim to their scheming.
9. Providing a Multitude of Scholarships : In addition to their broad variety of grants and awards, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also offers up over 27,000 scholarships for high school students from low-income families. This reinforces this belief that anyone who desires to attend college and earn a degree should not be prevented from doing so. While most of the money goes towards American students and institutions of higher learning, much of it also funds the projects and prospects of internationals hoping to study within disciplines that will help to build and sustain their communities back home. Some of the scholarships, for example, are available for Cambridge University, aspiring law students, University of Washington, and African women interested in a career in agriculture. Graduate and undergraduate levels are all available for those who qualify by meeting certain income and academic standards. There is even one meant for promising fifth graders, teaching them the leadership and academic skills that will help them succeed in an institute of higher learning years later.
10. Sponsoring the Native Lens Program : The nonprofit Native Lens Program and its affiliate Longhouse Media serve two extremely valuable purposes. First, they provide Native American youths with all the tools they need to plan and produce films that blend together traditional cultural and storytelling elements and modern perspectives and ideas. Second, it also provides a glimpse into the inner workings one of the most consistently overlooked and marginalized minorities in the United States, allowing others to see how these communities have to grapple against watching their culture deteriorate thanks to external oppression. Longhouse Media extends beyond the filmmaking element, striving to nurture creativity in all the Native American arts and crafts so that they do not become lost to the ebbs and flows of time. Both have attained considerable success and progress with their goals, having participated in a multitude of film festivals and enjoying recognition by PBS, Sherman Alexie, and other respectable media and creative figures.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation values education as a right afforded to anyone who seeks it rather than a privilege only for those who can pay for degrees an expensive college or university. Because of this, they provide millions of dollars worth of funding to schools and libraries alike as a means of nurturing a love of learning without cutting too deeply into pocketbooks. Doing so not only helps build up individuals, but provides them with all the tools they need to better their communities as well.