National Louis University Receives $1.1 Million Grant Gates Foundation grant supports data-tested program for vulnerable students attaining college degrees


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant will benefit National Louis University’s Pathways students, such as these three.

Thanks to a $1.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Louis University will be able to strengthen its affordable and rigorous college education program for high-potential students who have economic, cultural and academic vulnerabilities. The Pathways program continuously tests and improves its curriculum and wraparound (practical) support strategies to keep students on-track for college, career and life success.

The Gates grant will enable NLU to expand two key areas of the Pathways program at a time when it must build infrastructure for the long term.

The two areas include:

  • Boosting developmental education, the intense instructional and coaching support these students need to bring them to college-ready level in their core academics. 
  • Launching a career bridge to prepare them to attain internships and meaningful careers.

Both of these areas figure prominently into NLU’s mission to help these students stick with college, graduate with a degree and find fitting employment within six months.

National Louis University launched the Pathways program in Fall 2015 because research showed too few young people–especially low-income and minority students–attain the college degrees employers will require in the future.

NLU designed Pathways to address the reasons these students don’t attend and persist through college, including such practical challenges as parents who want them to bring home a paycheck. The program’s $10,000 per year all-in tuition can be reduced to zero out-of-pocket cost to students after federal and state grants, and it offers students wraparound support services to overcome real-life barriers to success, such as hunger and mental health struggles.

NLU’s staff continually study and data-crunch Pathways students’ performance. Based on this timely feedback, they correct course to maximize what’s working. For example, based on how students are responding, they might change curriculum, amplify certain elements of the curriculum or expand the use of an effective online program. The two-year Gates grant will allow staff to discover–and create–best practices in bolstering the students’ English and math competencies while keeping within the program’s low-tuition budget. Grant funds will allow NLU to build additional curriculum, test the effectiveness of various online adaptive technology tools for literacy and math, train faculty and more.

Likewise, the grant will aid NLU in constructing its Career Bridge, which will help students build career readiness skills and secure internships, micro-internships and job shadowing experiences. NLU staff will focus on providing career guidance that’s effective in preparing economically disadvantaged students, who may not have career role models in their neighborhoods, to succeed in the world of work.