About Us

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
  • 2004Converted to a grantmaking foundation
  • 2005First Community Grants made
  • 2006Launched Achieving the Dream in Washington
  • 2008Supported development of TheWashBoard.org scholarship website
  • 2009Launched College Readiness Initiative
  • 2012Focused Community Grants on key indicators for college readiness and success
  • 2013Launched Advocacy Grants Program
  • 2014Launched College-Ready Math Initiative
  • 2016Launched Guided Pathways and Ready to Rise Initiatives
  • 2019Launched Outcomes Acceleration Fund and Small Districts Fund
  • 2021College Spark adopts new mission focused on racial equity
  • 2021Launched LEADER Initiative and Education Equity Fund

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:

  • LEADER (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.
  • 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.
  • The Small Districts Fund supports 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.
  • Our 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.
  • The College-Ready Math Initiative invests $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 includes 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.

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

  • An Outcomes Acceleration Fund which 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.
  • Ready to Rise was an initiative investing 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.

College Spark also supported theWashBoard.org, a free, web-based scholarship clearinghouse for Washington residents and students attending Washington colleges. More than 250,000 scholarship seekers have registered on theWashBoard.org. Last year, 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.

“For too long, too many of our young people have been shut out of the transformational opportunities that a college education provides.  College Spark’s unwavering support for programs that promote college readiness, college attendance, and college success among students of color and from disadvantaged backgrounds is changing many lives for the better.”
Ed Taylor, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs at the University of Washington and College Spark Trustee