This Non-Profit Clears the Path to Success for Low Income Students of Color

Last night, I was honored to attend the 10-year anniversary gala of the Kaplan Educational Foundation (KEF), a New York City-based nonprofit.

Kaplan Educational Foundation identifies promising community college students, and by providing generous financial support, academic advising, leadership coaching, supplemental instruction, and other crucial supports, it paves the way for its scholars to succeed, with 87% earning an associate degree and 90% transferring to a four-year college.

All KEF alumni are employed in their field of study or attend graduate school.

A Unique Approach


KEF sees community college as an economic engine for students, many of whom have what it takes to succeed at top four-year colleges–like Amherst, Syracuse, Stanford, and Tufts among many others–but who often don’t see themselves in that light.

KEF resists the temptation to spread itself too thin and instead invests strategically in its scholars. Since its inception in 2006, it has served nine student cohorts, which include 17 active scholars and 35 alumni, many of whom have gone on to complete graduate degrees.

Collaborators and Partners


Last night, an important partner of the Kaplan Educational Foundation was honored: City University of New York Chancellor, James B. Milliken, who was presented with the College Partner Award by Don Graham, chairman of the board of Graham Holdings Co. and an avid KEF supporter and friend.

“We are committed to the success of these students,” the chancellor said, calling the partnership with KEF “terrific.”

Also honored was Jonathan Grayer, who received the organization’s Leadership Award. Now chairman and CEO of Weld North L.L.C., Grayer is the visionary who founded KEF a decade ago and remains one of its most ardent supporters. He is the former chairman and CEO of Kaplan Inc., whose employees are the principal funders of KEF, a separate entity.

An “Unequal Society”


Kaplan Educational Foundation helps to “level the playing field in an unequal society,” said Andrew Rosen, Kaplan’s current chairman and CEO.

Graham also alluded to the organization’s social justice work by saying KEF served those “not always well served by the status quo.”

The statistics for low income students of color not selected to be in a program like KEF are bleak indeed. Only 12% of community college students of color transfer to a four-year institution within four years of enrolling, and only 7% complete a bachelor’s degree within 10 years. The foundation’s experience proves the effectiveness of financial resources. More importantly, it offers comprehensive, high-touch support systems that these students may otherwise lack.

For more information about the Kaplan Educational Foundation, go to its website.