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Program Area Priorities

The Mayer and Morris Kaplan Family Foundation is interested in increasing postsecondary opportunities and life success for underrepresented minority, first-generation students from low-income communities. This includes readiness for and access to college and other postsecondary pathways that lead to a quality career.
An applicant need not address all the following program area priorities, although more competitive organizations tend to address a wider spectrum of student success (e.g., both preparing students for the transition from high school to college and supporting college completion). We may not make grants in all these areas at any one time, but we are interested in exploring and learning about all of them.


Program Components

The components listed below are generally agreed upon as those that best support students to and through their post secondary pathways. While there is not a minimum number of criteria that applicants must meet, we find that strong programs often incorporate many of these components.

Across All Education Priority Areas

  • Mentoring and supportive adult relationships; high-touch, frequent, individualized, and relationship-driven advising

  • Peer group support and mentoring; creating and sustaining student cohorts

  • Transition coaching; seamless ‘handoff’ between high school and college, extended support into college and beyond

  • Family engagement and education

  • Ongoing financial counseling for students and families; access to emergency funds

  • Developing social and emotional learning/nonacademic skills

  • Accurate and system-wide data tracking system to evaluate outcomes, with focus on equity

  • Strong and collaborative relationships between nonprofits, high schools, and postsecondary institutions

  • Provide or connect students to wraparound supports, especially for those facing basic needs insecurity

College Readiness

  • Strong academic preparation

  • Intensive application assistance and college advising, with focus on college match and fit

  • Comprehensive college-going culture

  • Pre-college experiences and college visits

  • Focus on ‘summer melt’ and transition to college

  • Access to postsecondary courses while in high school/dual enrollment

College Completion

  • Retention and support for students persisting through college and earning a 2- or 4-year degree

  • Intrusive and comprehensive advising, both academic and nonacademic advising (e.g., time management, study skills, connecting to resources, helping students acclimate, fostering a sense of belonging and self-efficacy)

  • Connections to campus resources

  • Redesign of developmental education (e.g., corequisite models)

  • Use of data to identify and direct interventions to students most likely to drop out

Progressive Pathways

  • Support for students who alternate between or combine periods of education/training and employment, progressively building toward college and career success

  • Emphasis on stackable credentials with economic value

  • Partnerships between employers, high schools, and higher education institutions to educate, train, support, and locate employment for individuals

  • Occupation-specific pathways for contextualized learning; industry sector focus is informed by labor market information and regional economic goals

  • Progressive design, where participants advance within a career cluster and/or can efficiently transition to continuing education

  • Career-focused instruction relates to real-life situations and integrates academic and technical content with professional skills

Career Readiness and Career Success

  • Comprehensive advising on wide range of options (e.g., college, career, progressive pathways)

  • Early career exposure and professional and non-cognitive skill-building

  • Helping students get quality first jobs through building skills, experience, and social capital

  • Connecting students to internships and job opportunities

  • Connecting higher education institutions and college access/completion organizations to employers

Other Considerations and Criteria

  • Grants in the Education program are made to organizations that work only within the city limits of Chicago and Los Angeles.

  • The Foundation supports organizations providing direct service and programs, as well as applied research intended to develop or improve evidence-based programming.

  • Our grantmaking supports the efforts of nonprofit organizations; individual public schools in Chicago and Los Angeles; CPS and LAUSD; institutions of higher education; or any of the above working together in collaboration.

  • We are interested in supporting high quality programs that achieve meaningful outcomes for students; in finding systemic, innovative solutions that promote collaboration among stakeholders; and in engaging in deep relationships with grantees.

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