Transformational Partnerships Fund

The Transformational Partnerships Fund (TPF) provides colleges and universities support to explore student-centric partnerships and collaborations that could meaningfully change how they operate and enhance their ability to provide reliable, high-quality educational opportunities for students. TPF was established by ECMC Foundation, and SeaChange, with additional founding support from Ascendium Education Group and The Kresge Foundation.

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

As one response, institutions are increasingly open to exploring partnerships of various kinds, including: mergers (full or partial); early, well-planned and well-funded teach-outs; sharing of facilities and infrastructure; co-curricular offerings and student services; and business/administrative consolidations. Most college and university leaders, however, have limited experience in this realm. Partnership explorations are particularly challenging in higher education, given the competitive market, the importance of shared governance, the role of alumni, the centrality of location and facilities, and the complex regulatory framework within which they operate.

TPF will consider partnerships in all forms, ranging from mergers to shared administrative services and consolidated academic offerings. TPF helps institutions explore partnerships in a thoughtful, timely way by offering:

  • A safe, confidential space for IHEs to discuss and explore strategic partnerships
  •  Information about the continuum of partnership options and support in identifying the strategies best suited to each institution’s unique circumstances
  • Referrals to appropriate experts who are well-versed in academic partnerships
  • Catalytic grants (up to $100,000 per exploration) to engage third-party technical assistance providers knowledgeable in law, finance, governance, fundraising, human resources, and other related fields
  • A visible advocate to share knowledge about the value of transformational partnerships and work in conjunction with other stakeholders interested in the success of IHEs

Amount: Grants of up to $100,000 may be awarded.

Eligibility: Partnerships that typically involve two or more degree-granting institutions of higher education, including private nonprofit colleges, public universities or systems, community colleges, and (in exceptional situations) for-profit institutions. Partnerships based on the following criteria will be prioritized:

  • One or more of the participating institutions must serve a student population that is at least 25 percent persons of color and/or where 40 percent 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, is expected to produce materially better outcomes for current and/or future students of the institution(s)

Deadline: Rolling.


Resource Information
Funder ECMC Foundation and SeaChange
Eligibility Institutes of Higher Education
Resource URL:
Sector COVID-19 Emergency Response, Education
Grant Amount $0-$100,000
Deadline Rolling Date