College Spark Washington

College Spark Washington supports the postsecondary dreams of students and their communities through grantmaking focused on dismantling racism in the education system.

We envision an education system that encourages learners to be their authentic selves and is eager and equipped to guide them towards realizing their dreams.

College Spark adopts new mission focused on racial equity

Our Core Values

At College Spark, our work is rooted in love for community and justice in creating educational opportunities that can transform our society.  We show love by seeking to eliminate oppression and disrupting educational inequities for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.  We express love in the following ways:

  • We believe in the wisdom of students and their communities.  Communities transform their futures because solutions come from those most directly affected by racist systems.
  • We actively seek and embrace opportunities to support students, communities, and allies to devise and implement educational solutions.  We operate with humility and recognize that we don’t have all the answers.  By collaborating and aligning with others, we leverage collective insight, experience, networks, and resources to more effectively advance educational equity.
  • We forge authentic relationships with communities and allies.  Authentic relationships require us to be open to being challenged and responsive to our partners.  We commit to listen, learn, and model openness and transparency.
  • We are an organization of continuous improvement.  We embrace new ways of thinking, planning, and acting that improve the impact and effectiveness of our work.  We continuously learn from experience, students and their community, each other, and our partners.
  • We are steady in our approach to lasting change.  We have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to be relentless in our efforts to dismantle educational barriers that prevent equitable opportunity for students.  We are responsible stewards of the public’s trust, and we invest wisely to benefit future generations.
  • We are bold in our belief about what’s possible and in challenging the status quo.  We seek to cause good mischief by challenging education systems to be more responsive to the needs of students and their communities.

Our History

College Spark began supporting access to higher education in 1978 by managing student loan programs. In 2004, College Spark reorganized as an education grantmaker and since then we have committed more than $70 million to college readiness and degree completion programs throughout Washington state.

College Spark Timeline

  • 1978Founded as a student loan guarantor
  • Converted to a grantmaking foundation2004
  • 2005First Community Grants made
  • Launched Achieving the Dream in Washington2006
  • 2008Supported development of scholarship website
  • Launched College Readiness Initiative2009
  • 2012Focused Community Grants on key indicators for college readiness and success
  • Launched Advocacy Grants Program2013
  • 2014Launched College-Ready Math Initiative
  • Launched Guided Pathways and Ready to Rise Initiatives2016
  • 2019Launched Outcomes Acceleration Fund and Small Districts Fund
  • College Spark adopts new mission focused on racial equity2021
  • 2021Launched LEADER Initiative and Education Equity Fund
  • Launched Evolve Initiative for thriving equitable systems 2024

Improving college readiness and success among low-income students and students of color is a complex problem that requires complex and multi-faceted solutions.  Our current programs include:

Our current programs include:


(Leaders in Education Advancing Diversity Equity and Racial justice) Initiative, invests $13.8 million over eight years, will focus on increasing community representation in teaching, supporting the systems changes needed to sustain these educators and leaders, and supporting the transformation toward just and equitable educator prep programs, districts, and schools.

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Education Equity Fund

Supports schools, colleges, and community based organizations working toward antiracist practices in education to stimulate systemic change and create positive outcomes for students.  Grant funding, up to $180K over three years, supports work designed to dismantle barriers to equity in education for students in high school and at community and technical colleges.

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Guided Pathways Initiative

Invests more than $8.5 million over eight years to make system-level changes that will provide students with more clarity on how to navigate the path to a desired degree. Ten community and technical colleges have been selected to implement the program.

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Our past programs include:

Prior to our mission change in 2021, College Spark supported the following programs and initiatives:

Outcomes Acceleration Fund

Awarded more than $1 million each year, in grants of up to $150,000.  College Spark awarded more than 100 Outcomes Acceleration Grants totaling more than $20 million.  Information about the Fund and past recipients is available on the Outcomes Acceleration Fund page.

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Ready to Rise

An initiative that invested nearly $3.4 million over five years to help low-income students stay on track and graduate from college. The cohort-based program, which emphasizes peer support, served 1,000 students from three Washington communities as they attended colleges throughout the state.

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College Spark also supported, a free, web-based scholarship clearinghouse for Washington residents and students attending Washington colleges. More than 250,000 scholarship seekers have registered on In 2020, more than $40 million in available scholarship awards were available.

For information about our completed College Readiness Initiative and Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count Initiative, please see our What We Learn page.

View a one-page handout of College Spark’s current programs here.

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College-Ready Math

Invested $12 million over seven years to help low-income students graduate from high school with strong math skills and avoid remediation in college.  The initiative included a variety of evidence-based strategies and programs designed to help students improve their scores on the 11th grade Smarter Balanced Assessment, which measures achievement on Common Core State Standards and which can ensure automatic placement into college-level classes.

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Small Districts Fund

Supported small school districts with K-12 enrollments under 2,000 students with efforts that better prepare students for successful transition to postsecondary education and that improve racial equity in education.

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“At our core, we believe in the power of community wisdom, co-creation, and racial justice in education. Through our grant funding, we aim to amplify voices, foster collaboration, and drive meaningful change in pursuit of a more equitable and inclusive educational landscape.”
Jeff Wagnitz, College Spark Board Chair