Local organizations join to strengthen community colleges in Massachusetts: ‘Achieving the Dream’ national initiative comes to Massachusetts with support from three foundations, TERI

May 11, 2007

Boston – Four community colleges from Massachusetts will be selected later this spring to receive funding as part of Achieving the Dream, a multiyear national initiative created to strengthen the ability of community colleges to help students of color and low-income students earn degrees and certificates by using data to close achievement gaps. The four colleges will be selected on the basis of a Request for Proposal process. Selections are expected to be complete by early June. 

A collaborative of three foundations and TERI (The Education Resources Institute) has pooled resources to contribute a total of $3.5 million over five years to support Achieving the Dream in Massachusetts. The initiative will be supported by the Boston Foundation, the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation in addition to TERI. Initial grants of $50,000 to four community colleges in the state will be followed by additional funding for implementation grants of up to $400,000 apiece over four years. The national effort was developed by the Lumina Foundation and eight national funding partners. 

The selected community colleges will use the awards to strengthen their institutional research capacity to address student achievement gaps, test new techniques for helping students perform well at school, and improve their outreach to communities, businesses and the public. The colleges will also develop a public policy strategy to address important systemic changes needed to benefit all Massachusetts community colleges. 

“Community colleges stand at the intersection of education and workforce development and play a critical role in both of these sectors,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “The use of data and shared best practices is a powerful strategy for progress. This initiative is an important opportunity to shape these institutions to meet the very real challenges of the 21st century knowledge economy.” 

Grogan cited the recent Understanding Boston report, Massachusetts Community Colleges: The Potential for Improving College Attainment , published earlier this year by the Boston Foundation Senior Fellow Mary Lassen, which described current challenges and opportunities for the region’s community colleges, and the role they can play in shaping the workforce critical to the region’s continued ability to thrive.

“An associate degree can be the gateway to the middle class,” said Kerry Sullivan, Senior Vice President, Bank of America, speaking on behalf of the Balfour Foundation. “The earning power of an individual with an associate degree is considerably higher than that of a high school graduate. The body of knowledge and lessons learned that Achieving the Dream brings to Massachusetts will provide enormous help and insight as our community colleges re-focus on student achievement, thus enabling more students to reap the economic benefits of a post-secondary education.”

The significance of community colleges for young people seeking to move into the national economy was underscored by the head of the Lumina Foundation.

“I cannot overstate the importance of helping community college students succeed,” said Martha D. Lamkin, President and CEO of Lumina Foundation for Education. “Community colleges enroll almost half the nation’s undergraduates and the students they serve often have few other options for higher education. With today’s jobs requiring more and more postsecondary education, the role of these institutions is more vital than ever.” 

The head of TERI  spoke to the power of working together with the other Massachusetts and national partners on the project. 

“Collaboration is critical for improving student success,” said Willis J. Hulings III, CEO of TERI . “We’re pleased to partner with these renowned foundations to bring Achieving the Dream to Massachusetts. This is in line with TERI's nearly 25 years of work as a nonprofit organization to promote educational opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds.” 

In the first year of the program, the four colleges selected will receive grants and the services of a data coach and a data facilitator, to begin to collect and analyze student data in an open and rigorous way, to establish a basis for improvements in the practice and the culture of the institution. The data collected will then form the basis for public policy advocacy for systemic change at the state level to benefit all community colleges in Massachusetts. Professional assistance will be provided by a number of national providers. 

All of the colleges within the national Achieving the Dream network—a total of 82 institutions in 15 states—will be connected to encourage the sharing of best practices and effective public policy strategies. Criteria for selection include demographic and geographic information as well as preparation by the candidate schools for the Achieving the Dream project. 

Of the four schools to be selected in Massachusetts, one must be in Boston, and one must be in the western part of the state. In each case, one-third of the selected schools student body will be men and women of color, or one-third must be economically disadvantaged. Other criteria include: 

  • The identification of a core team to lead campus work, including the college president, someone currently responsible for institutional research, the chief student services officer, and a faculty member with responsibility in key areas, such as mathematics or English;
  • A strategy for involving others in the college and in the community;
  • A description of the commitment of the president or chancellor, core team members and the Board of Directors to the goals of Achieving the Dream, including a commitment to creating a “culture of evidence,” that includes the use of student performance and attainment data;
  • A description of the college’s willingness to take part in the national database, the evaluation of the program, and the Achieving the Dream learning community;
  • A description of three ongoing strategies that reflect the institution’s commitment to increasing student attainment and some evidence of the impact of these strategies on student outcomes; 
  • An assessment of the way participation in Achieving the Dream will help the college improve student outcomes;
  • A description of how the college will integrate the Achieving the Dream with other institutional planning processes.


The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with assets of over $830 million.  In 2006, the Foundation and its donors made more than $70 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of $71 million.  The Foundation is made up of some 850 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes.  The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener, and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges.  For more information about the Boston Foundation, visit www.tbf.org or call 617-338-1700. 


TERI (The Education Resources Institute), a nonprofit organization in Boston, Massachusetts was founded in 1985 and promotes educational opportunities for all through its college access and loan guarantee activities. TERI is a national leader in promoting strategies for improving college access. The company manages college access programs that target low-income individuals and those who are the first generation in their families to attend college. TERI is also the managing partner of the Pathways to College Network, an alliance of over 30 nonprofit organizations and funders committed to advancing college access and success for underserved students. For more information: www.tericollegeaccess.org or www.teri.org


The Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation was established in 1973.  The Foundation's three primary focus areas reflect Mr. Balfour's strong affinity for the employees of the Balfour Company, his commitment to the City of Attleboro, Massachusetts, and his lifelong interest in education.  Bank of America, Trustee of the L. G. Balfour Foundation, is responsible for the management of the Foundation’s assets and the administration of its grantmaking program. 


The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation is a private family foundation devoted to strengthening the capacity of individuals, families and organizations in Hampden County by strengthening the quality of education for children and youth; ensuring the well-being of at-risk children, youth, and families; and enhancing the management, leadership and governance capabilities of nonprofit organizations in order to assist them in achieving their diverse missions.  Established in 1970, the foundation makes grants in a wide variety of fields, and is particularly dedicated to the educational success of children and youth.