GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Three foundations committed to innovation in education are investing in REP4, a program designed to put student ideas at the center of the future of education. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Meridian Foundation and the Steelcase Foundation together are investing in the effort that is in its second year to make sure it can scale up its prototypes and be replicable across higher education. The grants are different in their amounts and their intentions, but the combined gifts will fund the immediate and long-term needs of REP4 and its student participants.
REP4 is a unique alliance of six varied institutions across the country bonded together by the belief that learners are at the center of solutions and impact in higher education. The unique and central tenet of the program is that it mines fresh ideas from today’s high school students on how to improve equity in higher education. Students then work with experts at colleges and universities during regional summits to determine where and how the ideas can be prototyped and tested.
Grand Valley State University is REP4's founder and Midwest partner. The five other partners are: Amarillo College, a community college in Texas; Boise State University, a Research II university in Idaho; Fort Valley State University, an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) in Georgia; San Diego State University, an HSI (Hispanic-Serving Institution) and AANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution) in California; and Shippensburg University, part of the state system in Pennsylvania.
The new gifts from these foundations total $1.5 million to enable current learning summits, long-term operations and growth across higher education.
The Gates Foundation explains in its funding documents that REP4 is compelling because it is made up of a “consortium of institutions across the U.S. that have self-organized in a shared innovation effort that privileges student voice.” The goal is to support the program so it can be sustained, grow and become a model for institutions around the nation.
“This initial investment by the Gates Foundation gives us the ability, the space and capacity to scale and make REP4 sustainable and replicable,” said Grand Valley State University President Philomena V. Mantella. “The Gates Foundation brings with it intellectual capital to keep REP4 moving forward and putting it in a position for broad adoption across higher education. This grant is one more illustration that elevating underrepresented student voices and giving them an opportunity to grow as individuals, in addition to influencing innovation in education, is a worthy cause that is building momentum.”
REP4 has attracted several grants from the Meridian Foundation. These funds will go toward operations, particularly in technology, strategic partnerships and directly to students in the form of scholarships. The current gift will support the long view of REP4 in new modes of delivering content.