Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to Award $2.5M in Grants for College Apps

Student on computer

September 27, 2012

Today, some 150 developers, technologists, nonprofits and education stakeholders spent the day at the Facebook campus for "HackEd", a hackathon event where participants developed tools to help improve college access, according to Impatient Optimists, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation blog.

The all-day event focused on developing apps that would help young people, particularly those from low-income families, get in to and graduate from college. The apps addressed three important areas: academic support, financial aid and academic pathways. Apps for academic support would help students build academic support peer groups. Financial aid apps would help students navigate the complexities of the college admissions process and applying for financial aid. Lastly, apps focused on academic pathways would help students get through college by developing personalized paths to graduation.

According to TechCrunch, developers of all ages are encouraged to participate and although the apps are geared towards low-income and first-generation students, anyone can build and present an app during the hackathon.

Today's hackathon marks the kick off for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's College Knowledge Challenge, reported CNNMoney. Anyone who was not invited to participate in HackEd has the opportunity to submit an app, website or other online tool to help high school students get in to and complete college. The foundation will award up to 30 grants of $50,000 to $100,000 to winners.

"The foundation is concerned about low college attendance and graduation rates among all students," said Emily Dalton Smith, program officer for the Gates Foundation, who is overseeing the competition. Smith also added that the foundation especially wants to help low-income and minority students.

As CNNMoney noted, according to a Pew Research Center report, just 32 percent of Hispanic-Americans ages 18 to 24 are in college today, whereas 38 percent of African-Americans and 43 percent of whites are enrolled.

The foundation is looking for tools or apps that are innovative, easy to use and make use of social media. Developers can charge a fee for their apps, as long as low-income high schoolers can afford it.

Gates foundation staff as well as academic and tech industry experts will review and judge all submissions. The winners of the College Knowledge Challenge will be announced in January.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"Facebook & Gates Foundation Get 'HackED',", September 27, 2012, Facebook Education

"Gates Foundation Kicks Off $2.5M College Knowledge App Contest With EdTech Hackathon At Facebook,", September 27, 2012, Josh Constine

"Gates Foundation to award $100,000 grants for college apps,", September 27, 2012, Kim Clark

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