We are committed to clarity and confidentiality.

The Transformational Partnerships Fund is committed to respecting the confidentiality of institutions seeking assistance. We also want to be fully transparent about our process. Please let us know if you have additional questions we can answer.

Why was TPF established?

The Transformational Partnerships Fund was established on five fundamental beliefs:

  • Institutions of higher education face a complex set of challenges that are likely to intensify over the next decade;
  • Partnerships of various kinds (e.g., shared facilities and infrastructure, co-curricular offerings, mergers, program transfers) can be an important strategy for institutions of high education to better serve students in the face of the challenges;
  • Few institutions have been through the process of exploring or implementing a partnership and would benefit from connecting with third-party technical assistance providers who can help navigate the process;
  • Funders who believe in the importance of higher education and are committed to student success can (and should) play a role in helping institutions explore partnerships should they want to do so; and
  • A dedicated, confidential, nonprofit fund would be the best way to provide this support.

Who is SeaChange?

SeaChange is a nonprofit established in 2006 and headquartered in New York. SeaChange’s mission is to support nonprofits facing complex financial and organizational challenges. As one important part of this mission, SeaChange has been making grants to support nonprofits in exploring mergers and other forms of sustained collaboration since 2008. In total, SeaChange has reviewed more than 1,000 of these collaborative transactions, making 250+ grants.

SeaChange is the manager of TPF having established analogous grantmaking funds in New York (2012), Philadelphia (2015) and nationally (2009). SeaChange is managing TPF as a part of its charitable mission and has no economic relationship with any third-party providers (e.g consultants, lawyers, etc.) that TFP might refer or support indirectly through its grants. SeaChange is supported by grants and donations from foundations and individuals. For more information see www.seachangecap.org

Why is TPF a “Nonprofit Activity”?

TPF is a nonprofit activity in two ways. First, the underlying funders — ECMC Foundation, Ascendium Education Group, and The Kresge Foundation — and the manager (SeaChange) are all philanthropic entities that have established TPF as a way to advance their respective missions by supporting student success in higher education. Second, as a nonprofit initiative that is not seeking to earn fees from the institutions, TPF can provide objective, unbiased, advice and referrals.

What roles do the manager, the funders, the advisors and the network play?

SeaChange manages TPF day-to-day, responding to inquiries, communicating confidentially with institutions seeking grants or advice, making referrals as requested, organizing the network, and recommending grants to the TPF funders.

The funders — working through a governance committee — determine the overall strategy, oversee the manager, and approve grants.

The advisors are committed to higher education and student success. They each bring deep experience in the opportunity and challenges of partnerships. They are available to provide advice and counsel to the manager and funders with respect to TPF. They are not involved in grant recommendations or approvals.

The network is a set of third-party providers that TPF considers for referrals into particular situations. TPF believes institutions must be fully free to select and retain the third-party providers whom they believe will best address their needs; the engagement of a particular provider will never be a condition of a grant from the TPF. Third party providers interested in becoming part of the network should complete this brief information questionnaire.

What sorts of challenges are institutions facing?

Institutions face two types of challenges: external and internal. External challenges include: challenging demographic trends; a highly competitive market; the need to incorporate technology; decades of reduced support from government; and the immediate stress of COVID-19 upon enrollment and expenses.

Internal challenges include shared governance structures; the active role of alumni; the centrality of location (and the associated real estate); the complex regulatory framework; the need to balance the needs of current and future students, and the potential negative impact on the recruitment and retention of students if an institution is perceived as fragile.

Why do you believe that institutions are open to exploring partnerships at this time?

The TPF was established in response to demonstrated interest in support from institutions that had reached out to the funders or SeaChange. This is no surprise given recent surveys which suggest that: only 52% of U.S. college and university business officers are confident their institution will be financially stable over the next five years; and more than 20% think their institution should merge with another college or university within the next five years.

What does it mean to say that TPF is “student-centric”?

The advances that higher education have made with respect to equity and opportunity will be in jeopardy unless institutions are able to adapt and respond to the current challenges. In fact, recent research suggests that 12% of all students currently enrolled in a college or university are attending an institution that is at risk of failure and 19% of all Black students currently enrolled in a college or university are attending an institution that is at risk of failure. Partnerships can be a transformational strategy for at least some colleges and universities and for the students they serve.

What type of partnerships will TPF support?

TPF will support explorations across the full continuum of partnerships provided that they have the potential to transform one or more of the institutions in a way that would make a meaningful and positive difference for the students These might include partnerships involving:

  • Business and administrative services and back-end functions;
  • Academic offerings and services;
  • Co-curricular offerings and student services;
  • Shared facilities and infrastructure;
  • Mergers and acquisitions (full or partial);
  • Preferred, pre-planned and well-funded teach-outs;
  • Other innovative approaches
  • Some explorations might start in one area and move over time as the exploration continues; others might involve multiple elements. Narrow partnerships which, even if completed, would not be transformational to the institutions involved will only be considered if they are the initial step of a broader partnership strategy that has high-level institutional support.

TPF supports the exploration of new partnerships; it will not consider ongoing support for existing partnerships.

Why do you believe that partnerships are always the answer?

We don’t believe that partnerships are always the answer. They are just one among many strategic considerations that should be explored by mission-driven, student-centric institutions. We believe that exploring a potential partnership — even one that is not ultimately pursued — can be of value to the institutions, provided that the exploratory process was well structured.

Where can I learn about past partnerships that have been successful?

There are a number of books and articles that have been written about successful (and unsuccessful) transactions. Here are a few.

How do institutions apply for a grant?

Feel free to call us at (844) 869-7842 or email us at inquiry@higheredpartnerships.org to discuss your situation and your eligibility for a grant, or use this link to complete the initial grant inquiry. All applications will be held in the strictest confidence.

What is the range or average size of grants offered by TPF?

Grants are expected to range up to $100,000 per exploration. Grant sizes will be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the needs.

What are the eligibility criteria?

TPF will prioritize explorations based on the following criteria:

  • One (or more) of the participating institutions has a student population that is 25 percent (or more) BIPOC and/or where 40 percent of enrolled students meet the financial criteria for Pell eligibility;
  • One or more of the participating institutions deem the partnership to be transformational and that, if completed, it would make a material difference to the operations of the institution(s);
  • The partnership, if completed, would translate into materially better outcomes for current and/or future students of the institution(s);
  • The exploration is still at a formative stage, and TPF support would be important in helping the institutions make wise and timely decisions.

How can institutions be certain that TPF will maintain confidentiality?

Confidentiality is core to the design and operation of the Fund. The governing documents of TPF contain explicit confidentiality provisions as do the engagement letters between TPF and its Advisors.

Do institutions get to choose their consultants/advisors or are they assigned?

TPF believes that institutions are in the best position to select which third party providers are the most appropriate for their needs. Although we will make referrals where appropriate, there is no requirement to use any of the people we refer. As part of the grant application, we will inquire about the process by which the consultants were selected and review a copy of the scope of work and engagement letter.

How long does the approval process usually take?

Our grant approval is not calendarized. After receipt of all the materials we will endeavor to get back to you with feedback within 14 days.

Is there funding available for implementation, or is it just for planning purposes?

At this time TPF only makes exploratory grants to support the out-of-pocket costs associated with planning. We are unable to support implementation, ongoing programs, or internal staff costs other than in exceptional cases for one-time costs such as stipends to support individual faculty members who have volunteered to be part of the external-facing exploratory process with the other institution(s) outside of, and in addition to, their normal hours and responsibilities.

How can institutions learn more?

Contact us at any time at inquiry@higheredpartnerships.org and (844) 869-7842.


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