Students in classroom

Giving more kids a chance to attend college

A San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit is ensuring more people have the opportunity to benefit from higher education

As the heart of the U.S. tech industry, the San Francisco Bay Area is home to a high concentration of professionally successful college graduates. The median family income in the city and many of the surrounding communities exceeds $100,000 per year. Yet that wealth can obscure pockets of poverty — areas where a college degree may appear out of reach to high school students and their families. Since its founding in 1981, the mission of the nonprofit 10,000 Degrees has been to help Bay Area students from low-income backgrounds enroll in and graduate from college.

Operating in seven counties, including Marin, Sonoma and most recently Napa, 10,000 Degrees is focused on helping students from low-income families. Nationally, only 14% of students from such backgrounds earn a bachelor’s degrees by age 24, compared to 59% of students from the highest-income families, according to The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education.footnote1

Eighty-nine percent of students served by 10,000 Degrees identify as Black, Indigenous, Latinx or people of color, and more than 85% represent the first generation in their families to attend college. With innovative programs that include peer counseling, financial aid advising, internship opportunities and on-campus support services, 10,000 Degrees helps these achievers beat the odds — 80% of participants in its four-year college program graduate, compared to 31% of their peers nationally.

Through partnerships with more than 20 local high schools in Marin and Sonoma counties, 10,000 Degrees guides high-school seniors and their families through the college selection, application and financial aid process, for both four-year and community colleges. The year-long assistance kicks off with an immersive summer program that prepares students for the college experience.

One key to 10,000 Degrees' success is its Fellowship program, which provides invaluable support to the students. Fellows are recent college graduates, most 10,000 Degrees alumni, who serve as near-peer mentors and are trained to provide deep content expertise in college and financial aid advising.

Bank of America has supported 10,000 Degrees since 2011, with bank staff volunteering at money management workshops and career night events. The bank recently funded a pilot program to help 10,000 Degrees graduates achieve career success via résumé preparation, guidance on internships and advice on networking. Based on the experiences of the 230 pilot participants, 10,000 Degrees aims to expand the career program to serve 500 grads per year.

The support for 10,000 Degrees is an example of Bank of America’s commitment to help advance racial equality and economic opportunity in local neighborhoods around the country. From entrepreneur funding and expanding home ownership to professional skills training and healthcare access, Bank of America continues to partner with innovative leaders to help communities implement solutions to society’s biggest challenges.