Great Lakes

About Our Philanthropy—A Legacy That Goes Back 50 Years

January 11, 2018
Happy Graduate

When Great Lakes was founded in 1967, we were established as a nonprofit organization with a single mission: promoting college access and completion. Simply put, we were charged with getting more students to and through college.

Why? Because a postsecondary education of any kind—anything from a certificate to a Ph. D—is the ticket to a better life in our country and promotes the health of our economy.

We know that college graduates consistently earn larger salaries than high school graduates, and they're more likely to be employed, too. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for college graduates with a bachelor's degree or higher is less than 3%, while it's over 5% for adults with only a high school diploma and no college.

Committing Nearly
$260 Million
Since 2006

Great Lakes is in the business of making
the American Dream a reality.

Our focus is on students from low income families, students of color and students who are first in their families to pursue a postsecondary education. Traditionally they have the most to gain from a college degree but the least support in getting there. These three factors, taken together, have created an education equity gap in our country, and our funding strives to overcome that gap.

In order to do that, we focus on promoting equity versus equality. While we want all students to end up in the same place, getting there depends on where they start. So, we focus on those students who have the most catching up to do—giving them a little more to make things fair for all.


  • Providing low-income high school students informational resources on how to prepare for and apply to college—helping them understand that college is a possibility.
  • Providing emergency grants to community college students, so that an unexpected car repair or root canal doesn't force them to choose between paying tuition or paying their bills.
  • Promoting innovative new teaching methods for college math that help struggling students get out of remedial classes that too often frustrate students and lead to their dropping out of college.

Given the magnitude of the problems we face as a nation, Great Lakes takes bold actions with our philanthropy. We're not interested in dabbling in small projects that only help a few students. Our resources are aimed at helping significant numbers of students, allowing us to identify solutions, verify that they work, and then execute them on a large scale.




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