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College graduation and successful career pathways for all students are indispensable for progress, equality, and the future competitiveness of our country. Yet only one-third of first-generation and students with financial need actually graduate from college. Despite billions of dollars of scholarship funding from foundations and donors all over the country, graduation rates for these students are dangerously low.  70% of first-generation and low income students see their college dream end, and with that, their hopes for their futures, careers, and advancement for their families.


There is a combination of structural, social and financial reasons why this happens. Scholarship funds cover tuition and basic housing/food costs, but they are not designed to provide wellness or academic support, financial assistance for emergencies, or a sense of community and belonging. Colleges have been ill-equipped to address the systemic barriers these students face. But there is hope, as in the last 10 years we've seen strategic interventions and programs providing guidance, mentorship, and a sense of community that have been very successful, increasing their graduation rates dramatically.


As funders, we need to think of access and scholarship funding as only one step in their journey.  For this philanthropic investment to actually have the positive, transformational impact we intend, it is critical that students are provided with the support and guidance they need to succeed, and colleges need to be ready to not only welcome these students but to ensure they have what they need to be successful.   

We invest in innovative, student-centered practices, programs, and research that support college students as they pursue Associate’s or Bachelor’s degrees and prepare for meaningful careers. We know that academic success, wellness, and community connections are the deep roots of a positive college experience, and we have seen the impact that critical services like advising, mental health support, career development, and student and family engagement have on student success. This holistic approach to college success drives our work with community partners that support students across the country. We believe higher education and community partners have a unique opportunity to center students, build momentum, and strengthen infrastructure as students contribute their many talents and skills and overcome barriers to achieve their dreams.

The Crimsonbridge Foundation’s College Success Program works with nonprofits, high school districts, community colleges and universities, and research organizations to put our strategic priorities into action.

Our Priorities:

  1. Improve college completion for students, especially first-generation and students underrepresented in higher education.
  2. Identify and elevate research that provides innovative solutions to barriers students face.

  3. Increase momentum towards a college degree success.

  4. Build an infrastructure of student support services that serve all college students




Since 2018, Crimsonbridge has engaged and supported nonprofits that provide direct support, case management, and programming for local community college and university students. Local nonprofits have a long history of working with regional institutions of higher education to support students through college milestones, improve services, and build strong partnerships with the broader community. To support and advance this work, the Crimsonbridge Foundation partnered with the Scheidel Foundation in 2018 to launch the College Completion Colleagues (C3) Initiative with a shared goal of partnering with six nonprofit organizations to increase college success rates for 4,000 first-generation college students in the Greater Washington region. The eight organizations gather three times a year to discuss challenges, share best practices, and collaborate. C3 partners have collaborated on initiatives that address various student support elements, organizational operations, professional development, and community advocacy. Direct-service nonprofits include Capital Partners for Education, Collegiate Directions, Inc., College Success Foundation-DC, CollegeTracks, Generation Hope, and New Futures.

Across the nation, high school districts and networks are investing resources and staff time to support their high school alumni enrolled in colleges and universities. This is a growing area for secondary education that includes many creative examples such as timely advising, partnerships with higher education institutions, and technology to nudge or intervene as students move through important college milestones related to degree requirements.


Crimsonbridge has partnered with Cristo Rey Network to help launch their GradForce platform that provides alumni advising and virtual services to graduates of 33 Cristo Rey high schools. This national network of high schools partners with over 50 universities and other industry partners to support their alumni along their college and career journeys.


Higher education institutions play a critical role in creating the infrastructure, conditions, and support services for college success. Institutions are continually innovating to serve their enrolled students, meet their needs, and build meaningful relationships that help students complete their degrees. Since 2016, Crimsonbridge has partnered with two universities to support first-generation student success: Georgetown University and the Catholic University of America (CUA). The Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP) provides comprehensive programming that includes access to resources, community connections, and emergency aid for more than 600 undergraduate students annually. 96% of their scholars complete their degree. Our partnership has included advisory board engagement, technical assistance, and support to enhance communications and technology that advance student success. In 2019, Crimsonbridge partnered with CUA to launch Take Flight, their first program designed specifically to serve first-generation students. Take Flight offers a guided introduction to campus services and resources, weekly programming, and a peer mentorship program. Take Flight is led by Javier Bustamante, Director of the Center for Cultural Engagement and a Crimsonbridge Leadership Fund alumnus.

  • new national benchmarks and career outcomes for first-generation college students (NASPA’s Center for First-generation Student Success)

  • national findings on retention and completion statistics for Latino college students for all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia (Excelencia in Education)

  • postsecondary outcomes for Latino college students enrolled at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) in California (MDRC’s Latino Academic Transfer and Institutional Degree Opportunities (LATIDO) project)

Institutions and organizations need research to make data-informed decisions about improving student success. Crimsonbridge Foundation has partnered with national organizations to identify and expand resources needed for higher education and community partners to better support students. Crimsonbridge has invested in research to fill gaps in knowledge at both the state and national levels. Research topics Crimsonbridge has supported include:


High Schools

Community Colleges 

& Universities




Crimsonbridge believes in the power of educational technology to scale promising practices for student success. The growing use of artificial intelligence and advanced technologies are helping schools and organizations build an equitable future for students that removes barriers to graduation and makes important relationships more accessible. As nonprofits and colleges continue to transform to serve their students better, solutions must be scalable and focus on equity. These innovations have ushered in adaptations in teaching and learning, more integrated support services, and new avenues for connection-building and community engagement. Crimsonbridge's past investments in this area include support for the Cristo Rey Network's new advising platform for their high school alumni enrolled at 50+ partner universities and consultancy on the development of Georgetown University’s Georgetown Scholars Program platform for first-generation college students.



Local college students received tailored academic, mental health, and career support from 6 direct-service nonprofit partners


Local college students received wraparound support, campus and community connections, and access to emergency aid from two university partners


Of local college students served by College Success community partners are the first in their family to graduate from college