Education & Economic Mobility Guidelines

Below is information explaining the types of projects we fund through our Education & Economic Mobility Program for 2021-2025. For questions, please reach out to [email protected].


The mission of the Education & Economic Mobility Program is to close income and race disparities in college and career success through equitable access to high-quality education. We invest in local, state and federal policies that aim to ensure historically underserved young people 1) have effective educators; 2) graduate high school with academic and career momentum; and 3) attain affordable college credentials with economic value. In the short term, we will invest in research, policy development, and advocacy to help young people recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective Educators

Evidence is clear that teachers and principals are the main in-school driver of student success. Yet, young people of color and those from underserved communities often have inexperienced, unqualified, or ineffective educators. To ensure historically marginalized students have top-notch and diverse educators, the Foundation invests in research, policy development, advocacy, and technical assistance to: 1) use data to better align educator supply and demand; 2) diversify the educator pipeline; 3) build strong pathways from high school into teaching; and 4) spread innovative school staffing models that attract educators, boost retention, and improve student outcomes. Our investments focus on Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and national efforts.

College and Career Readiness

There is overwhelming evidence that a college degree significantly improves life outcomes. Yet not enough high school students—especially young people of color and those from underserved communities—are prepared to succeed in post-secondary. To help students get on the right path, the Foundation supports federal and state policies to: 1) align K-12, higher education, and workforce systems; 2) increase access and success in rigorous courses; and 3) increase access to high-quality work-based learning activities connected to careers with family-sustaining wages.

Post-Secondary Success

A post-secondary degree remains the surest path to social and economic mobility. Yet colleges fail to enroll and graduate students of color and students from low-income households at the same rate as White and wealthier students.

This contributes to racial and socioeconomic disparities in education and career outcomes. To address these disparities, the Joyce Foundation supports federal and state policies that: 1) scale proven student support models to improve community college outcomes; 2) preserve access for students of color and rural students to affordable, high- quality public college options and labor markets that require college degrees; 3) seek racial and family income representativeness at selective public universities; and 4) narrow gaps in post-graduate financial outcomes for students of color and low-income students.


Please tell me more about your focus on policy and systems change.

We focus our grantmaking on efforts that help inform, develop, advance, and implement evidence-based policies and systems change aimed at closing race- and income-based disparities in college and career success. We fund research that studies the effectiveness of policies once implemented. And we fund efforts to spread the work more widely through convenings, communications, and narrative change.

Which Great Lakes states do you focus your state and local district policy work/investments?

In the K-12 portfolio, we focus mainly on Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota. We fund limited college and career readiness work in Ohio. And we run a five-state Great Lakes Teacher Shortage Community of Practice that includes all these states. At the district level, we focus on Chicago, Indianapolis and Minneapolis. In the post-secondary success portfolio, we focus on Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio. We will consider select grants in Indiana and Wisconsin.

Do you fund organizations that work at the national and federal level?

Yes, in both K-12 and post-secondary. We fund research, policy development, advocacy, and field-building efforts to develop and spread evidence-based federal policies aimed at closing race- and income-based disparities in college and career success. We also fund national non-profits that work across multiple states and at the federal level.

Do you fund specific programs aimed at helping young people become economically mobile?

No. In general, our investments are focused along the Joyce grant making continuum, strongly emphasizing research, policy development, advocacy and policy implementation. For example, our Educator Effectiveness portfolio seeks to grow high-quality teacher training routes, such as residencies and registered apprenticeships. We support state and federal policy development, advocacy, and technical assistance to states to ensure these routes lead to a diverse, highly effective workforce. We do not fund the teacher training programs, themselves, nor do we fund stipends for teacher candidates in the residency programs.

Do you fund government agencies and programs?

We mainly make grants to nonprofit organizations. However, we occasionally fund government initiatives that promise to lead to systems or policy changes. Sometimes we fund technical assistance to government agencies seeking to change or implement policies.

Does Joyce fund education research?

We focus on applied public policy research. The research must be geared towards informing how districts, post-secondary institutions, or state/federal policymakers might approach a significant problem. Often, this means researching whether a specific policy has been—or would be—effective in helping students or what might be the unintended consequences of the policy.

Are there important education and economic mobility issues not addressed by Joyce’s Education & Economic Mobility Program?

  • Yes. With limited resources, we are focused on the challenges described in the program guidelines above. Topics that fall outside our priorities include:
  • Pre-K programs aimed at children birth to five. Our education grant making is focused on policies in the kindergarten through post-secondary space;
  • Scholarships, school voucher programs, and similar programs that primarily benefit individuals. Our focus is on district, state, and federal policy and system change; and
  • Capital campaigns directed at improving public schools.

Do you fund state and federal efforts that seek to make college free or cancel debt?

Our goal is to close race and family income-based gaps in college attainment. We believe some free college proposals are geared more toward this goal than others, and we think that some problems are not fully addressed by many free college plans. Some of these problems include race/income disparities in the student bodies of selective public universities, disparities in the resources at various colleges, and the integration of student success programs that can double graduation rates at community colleges. We consider funding that relates to public policy areas like free college and debt cancellation through this lens.