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Bates College Announces $100M Initiative to Expand Access to Financial Aid

·4-min read

The $100 million effort, powered by a $50 million challenge grant from the Chicago-based Schuler Education Foundation, will be matched dollar for dollar by Bates donors.

LEWISTON, Maine, September 28, 2021--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Bates College today announced a challenge grant of $50 million from the Schuler Access Initiative to be matched dollar for dollar by Bates donors. The combined effort will fuel an unprecedented $100 million expansion of financial aid at Bates to enroll talented students who are Pell-eligible or undocumented. Bates is one of four top liberal arts colleges and one university selected by the Schuler Education Foundation to launch the new initiative.

"This is a game-changer for Bates," said Bates President Clayton Spencer. "Bates was founded by people who believed in the power of education to develop the full potential of every human being. This extraordinary investment from the Schuler Education Foundation, combined with the generosity of Bates donors, provides us with the means to renew this founding vision in a very real and tangible way. I am thrilled that we will be able to make the life-transforming experience of the liberal arts available to even greater numbers of talented students who might otherwise not have this opportunity."

The infusion of financial aid funds, Spencer said, will enable Bates "to increase the number of students who are Pell-eligible, undocumented, and low income at Bates by 50 percent over the next decade. It will allow us to attract talented and ambitious students who bring a wide range of perspectives and life experiences to their education, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college."

The $100 million effort at Bates is structured as an incentive program that offers a dollar-for-dollar match from the Schuler Education Foundation, up to $50 million, for every dollar raised by the college over the next five years. The funds raised from Bates donors are gifts to endow permanent support for expanded financial aid.

This grant to Bates is one of the largest scholarship-focused gifts ever to a Maine college.

"Combined with the deep generosity of the Bates community, this new grant creates an extraordinarily meaningful and powerful $100 million partnership," said John D. Gillespie ’80, chair of the Bates College Board of Trustees and a co-chair of The Bates Campaign, which includes financial aid as a major priority. "There is no doubt it will be transformative, not just for the individuals it touches, but for this institution."

A national effort with broad reach and impact, the Schuler Access Initiative is poised, over the next 10 years, to award up to $500 million to as many as 20 U.S. colleges and universities that pledge to increase their enrollment of students whose exceptional financial need qualifies them for federal Pell grants, or whose undocumented status makes them ineligible for federal aid programs. At each participating institution, the Schuler investment will stimulate one-to-one matching gifts, up to a total of $1 billion.

In creating the Schuler Access Initiative partnership, the foundation looked "for institutions that we felt were leaders in educating and supporting students who are Pell-eligible or undocumented," said Jason Patenaude, executive director of the Schuler Education Foundation. "It didn’t make a lot of sense to dramatically increase the number of students if we didn’t think the institutions could support them successfully to graduation."

Historically, Bates has one of the strongest overall graduation rates in the country, and the six-year graduation rate for the cohort of Bates students that entered in 2014 was 98 percent for students who receive Pell grants compared with 92 percent overall.

Patenaude added that the partner institutions were chosen for their track record of collaboration on a national level, their willingness "to exchange ideas and best practices with each other. Not every institution is comfortable discussing their ‘secret sauce.’ But for us, learning what works best and then sharing those ideas as broadly as possible is why we’re doing this."

Bates’ record of national-level collaboration includes membership in the American Talent Initiative. Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and comprising 125 of the nation’s most respected colleges and universities, the initiative seeks to expand by 50,000 the number of low- and moderate-income students attending 270 of the top U.S. schools by 2025.

For more information about Bates College, visit

About Bates College

Located in Lewiston, Maine, and engaged worldwide, Bates is broadly valued as a leading national college of the liberal arts and sciences, attracting 2,000 students from across the U.S. and around the world. Since 1855, Bates has been dedicated to the emancipating potential of the liberal arts and sciences, educating the whole person through creative and rigorous scholarship in a collaborative residential community.

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Bates College
Mary Pols
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