Alumni Programs

Private Funding Takes Center Stage

Protecting the Essential Evergreen

Gates Matching Grant Provides Extraordinary Opportunity


In June, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a $3 million grant to The Evergreen State College Foundation to support student success and retention, build capacity for fundraising to support student scholarships and other critical needs, and create an endowed scholarship fund. The latter includes a dollar for dollar match for the first $1.5 million in new gifts for student scholarships focused on low-income students at risk of dropping out.   

As the national financial challenges mount, states continue to slash public college and university budgets and dramatically increase tuition. In Washington, the era of predominantly public funding for public baccalaureate education has ended, but the state’s goal of providing broad access to a diverse population remains. At Evergreen, success in this new era will require clarity of values, innovative thinking and new levels of engagement and partnership with alumni, friends and supporters. The challenges are unprecedented, but important opportunities are beginning to emerge as well. 

In just four years, the state’s share of Evergreen’s operating budget has declined from 65 percent to 35 percent while tuition has increased nearly 70 percent. The next legislative session promises more of the same, with further double digit cuts, additional tuition increases and potential reductions to state student financial aid very real possibilities. In this bleak light, questions arise, questions such as:

  • What is the definition of a “public” institution?  If the state contributes only a small fraction of the support, is it still public?
  • If public institutions must raise the majority of their funds from private sources, should they be freed from the restrictions that private institutions are not bound by?
  • What does our country look like if the education gap continues to widen and only the wealthy can attain higher education? 

No one seems to question the imperative of preserving public education’s founding tradition of accessibility—educating students from all walks of life and maintaining the diversity of its community—but success in preserving access dictates a dramatic increase in Evergreen’s ability to raise private funds. You can join the debate on November 12 by attending our Traveling Seminar, Public Higher Education in Crisis: Redefine or Recommit.

As part of our effort to maintain access and support students in obtaining degrees, over the next three years Evergreen will increase its engagement with alumni, parents and friends to build a new $3 million endowment. Every dollar raised, up to $1.5 million, will be matched by one dollar from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. You can make a difference by making a gift of any size to this new scholarship fund.

While the Gates grant alone cannot come close to matching the need created by reduced state funding and steep tuition increases, it provides an example of the increasingly critical ways in which private funds can make a difference in the lives of individual students. It’s vital for others to follow that lead. Nothing less than Evergreen’s core values—accessibility, collaboration and interdisciplinarity—are at stake.