Laura and John Arnold Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Laura and John Arnold Foundation’s grantmaking focuses on criminal justice, K-12 education, evidence-based policy and innovation, research integrity, sustainable public finance, and a catch-all area called new initiatives, for projects that fall outside the scope of the other programs.

IP TAKE: This foundation does not have a program specific to higher education, but it conducts grantmaking to benefit higher education through all of its programs. Most higher education funding supports research and other similar grants. LJAF is looking for “transformative” work, so be ready to think big and to have a plan that is data-heavy and transparent.

PROFILE: The Arnold Foundation’s work emphasizes transformation and reform, looking for innovative new models, and especially championing openness and transparency. Specifically, the foundation seeks “to address our nation’s most pressing and persistent challenges using evidence-based, multi-disciplinary approaches...that target the root causes” of these issues with solutions that are “both scalable nationally and sustainable.” This objective is probably most apparent in the foundation’s education reform work, its biggest priority. Other programs include Criminal Justice, K-12 Education, Evidence-Based Policy and Innovation, Research Integrity, Health Care , and a catch-all area called New Initiatives.

Arnold does not have a program specifically dedicated to higher education. Rather, it generally funds research done by colleges and universities across its programs. The foundation’s Research Integrity program seeks to improve the reliability of published studies, with an emphasis on openness, rigorous analysis, and participation among peers. It funds watchdog programs promoting open science, efforts to replicate existing studies, and researchers who can provide robust and meaningful work in areas where it is currently lacking.

The foundation’s Criminal Justice initiative seeks “to reduce crime, increase public safety, and ensure the criminal justice system operates as fairly and cost-effectively as possible” by supporting “research projects, creat[ing] tools for practitioners, and partner[ing] with local jurisdictions to pilot and test new policies and practices.” CJI in turn is subdivided into five focus areas: Policing, Pretrial Justice, Community Supervision, Prisons, and Reintegration.

LJAF prioritizes its K-12 Education program; however, a number of top postsecondary institutions have received funding for research in this area, and some universities have also received six- and seven-figure sums for their teacher training programs.

LJAF also invests in Evidence-Based Policy and Innovation, which supports efforts to “encourage governments and nonprofit organizations to help build the evidence base for social interventions and to consider reliable evidence as one of the primary factors in their decisions,” with the goal of increasing effectiveness and efficiency. Through this program, the foundation supports on-campus  research institutes, research labs, the effectiveness of public policies such as raising the minimum wage and anti-poverty programs, and efforts “to reduce polarization and dysfunction in government.”

LJAF’s Health Care initiative aims to “bring down the skyrocketing costs of prescription medications, while keeping in place the necessary systems that allow for innovation and discovery.” It funds scholarly research that “assesses the best ways to measure quality of care, the effectiveness of alternative payment models, and the impact that transparent pricing information has on patients’ decisions.”

Grants range from $20,000 to $500,000, with some grants totaling several millions of dollars. View the foundation’s Past Grants page for more information.

The foundation does not generally accept unsolicited applications, but it does often issue Requests for Proposals. Interested grantseekers should check back frequently, as open applications may change.


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