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New Grant to Improve College Access and Outcomes for Underserved Student Populations

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grant to Help Leverage UMGC’s Large and Diverse Student Body in Developing New Models for Closing the Higher Education Equity Gap

Mary Dempsey
By Mary Dempsey
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Adelphi, Md. (July 20, 2023)—University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) has been awarded a $462,000 grant to identify new models for closing the higher education equity gap and quickly scaling up innovative programs and pathways for underrepresented students to excel in class and in their communities. The funding is provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The grant, which runs through Dec. 31, 2023, is part of an effort by the foundation’s Post-Secondary Success Team to leverage the experiences of UMGC and other national institutions with a large and diverse student population. The goal is to ensure that certain characteristics of historically underserved student populations, such as low income, are no longer predictors of postsecondary educational success.

“We are honored to partner with the Gates Foundation in advancing our shared goals around student equity, success, and access to affordable higher education,” said UMGC President Gregory Fowler. “Because of our commitment to innovation and our expertise in bringing educational experiences within reach for underserved populations, UMGC is well-positioned to collaborate with the Gates Foundation on this project, which has powerful implications for all of higher education.”
College degrees have been shown to significantly increase earning potential and career mobility, yet post-secondary success is not equally distributed among population groups in the United States. White adults, Gates Foundation research found, are nearly twice as likely as Latino adults to earn at least an associate degree, and students from high-income households are five times more likely than students from low-income backgrounds to earn a college degree by age 25.

UMGC advances data-driven solutions and innovative practices that make college degrees and other career-relevant credentials and certifications more affordable and accessible. It is a pioneer in online pedagogy and in replacing costly publisher textbooks with digital learning materials supplied at no cost to students.

The university has forged transfer alliances with community colleges across the country that speed up the path and widen access to four-year degree programs and has adopted a variety of student-focused resources aimed at ensuring academic achievement, such as a success coach model and a required Program and Career Exploration (PACE) course for all incoming students.

Last year, U.S. News & World Report called UMGC the nation’s friendliest university for transfer students.

With this funding from the Gates Foundation, UMGC will conduct a comprehensive equity audit, engage key stakeholders, and implement targeted improvements that empower all students to succeed. The grant will help UMGC draft a roadmap for strategic growth that generates equitable outcomes and serves more Black, Latino, Indigenous and low-income students—groups that are often overlooked by traditional universities.

UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students each year and in FY22 offered 926 distinct courses online and had more than 305,000 course enrollments. The university is also a majority minority institution, with 54 percent of students identifying with a minority group, and has been designated a minority-serving institution by the U.S. Department of Education.  

About 28 percent of UMGC students are African American, while 29 percent of all degrees and certificates at UMGC were awarded to African American students and 36 percent of the master's degrees UMGC conferred were awarded to African American students.

“We believe we can accelerate UMGC’s growth while also contributing to greater equity in degree attainment and in the completion of certificates, certifications and other credentials that lead to career advancement and success for students nationwide,” Fowler said. “Our student enrollment already reflects a greater diversity than most traditional universities. The solutions that come out of our experience through this partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation could shape a model for increasing student success rates and embedding high-quality educational experiences tailored to student needs, academic abilities, and career goals.”

UMGC was founded with a mission to serve adult students in the workforce and the military, and it has a long history of innovation in reaching students where they are, including as a pioneer of internet instruction, piloting its first online classes in 1994. The university has won numerous awards for its groundbreaking work in developing fully online degree programs, including in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, business, data analytics, health care, and education.

About University of Maryland Global Campus

University of Maryland Global Campus was founded more than 75 years ago specifically to serve the higher education needs of working adults and military servicemembers. Today, UMGC is the largest provider of postsecondary education in Maryland and continues its global tradition with online and hybrid courses, more than 175 classroom and service locations worldwide, and more than 125 degrees and certificates backed by the reputation of a state university and the University System of Maryland. For more information, visit