“I feel compelled to work with these students because I have faith that they will become citizens.” — Sandra Rodrigues, Academic and Career Counselor at Cañada College


The California Campus Catalyst Fund (the Catalyst Fund) was a four-year grantmaking initiative to expand support for undocumented students and their families across the state’s three public higher education systems: California Community Colleges, California State University, and University of California. The Fund raised over $14 million dollars.

A group of funders, advocates, and educators formed the California Campus Catalyst Fund to seed hope and a powerful path forward at a time when undocumented communities were grappling with heightened fear and uncertainty. As undocumented immigrants questioned whether they would be torn from their homes, their schools, their jobs, and their families, this initiative built on the proactive solutions and relief coming out of California’s public higher education campuses. Thanks to the leadership of students, faculty, and administrators, our state’s public colleges and universities emerged as sites for innovation; welcoming undocumented students out of the shadows and providing them with the resources they needed to succeed.

The California Campus Catalyst Fund sought to strengthen this wave of innovation. It provided an opportunity for campus leaders to develop creative strategies to respond to the needs of large numbers of undocumented students and their families. We drew the connection between students and families for two principal reasons. First, many undocumented students view their futures as closely tied to the security of their families. Second, immigrant students, especially those who are the first in their families to go to college and/or translate and navigate U.S. systems, can be important and trusted links between family members and needed services.

This grantmaking initiative was supported by private philanthropic dollars with the intent of enhancing the capacity of campuses across the state to serve undocumented communities in ways that are ultimately sustained through the campuses beyond the life of the Catalyst Fund.

What We Funded

The California Campus Catalyst Fund supported:

  • An average grant award of $125,000 (Year 1), $115,000 (Year 2), and $105,000 (Year 3) provided directly to campuses (although grant sizes vary). Collaborations involving multiple campuses were eligible to receive larger grants.
  • Individualized technical assistance from seasoned consultants to help campuses design and/or refine the delivery of support services and resources to undocumented students and their families based on lessons from other campuses across the state.

The California Campus Catalyst Fund focused grant support on campuses with new or nascent efforts to serve undocumented students. We worked to ensure equitable distribution of resources to campuses located across the state of California — from north to south, inland to coastal, and urban to rural.


We were guided by our belief that increased collaborations across the state can help us uncover the best ideas and solutions to create positive change for diverse communities.

As funders, educators, and advocates we aimed to seed hope and innovation at a time when undocumented communities were grappling with heightened fear and uncertainty.


Funders include Chavez Family Foundation, College Futures Foundation, Crankstart, ECMC Foundation, Grove Foundation, Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Ginnie and Peter Haas, Jr. Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation, Hellman Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, Kelson Foundation, Loud Hound Foundation, NextGen America, and Weingart Foundation.

Immigrants Rising

Immigrants Rising (formerly known as Educators for Fair Consideration), a fiscally-sponsored project of Community Initiatives, is administering the California Campus Catalyst Fund. Immigrants Rising will be overseeing the grant application and selection process; convening a core team of advocates, educators and funders to make grant decisions; and coordinating the delivery of technical assistance to grantees. Immigrants Rising has a proven commitment to promoting and facilitating opportunities for success for undocumented students. Since its inception, Immigrants Rising has partnered with higher education administrators and faculty, undocumented students, community-based organizations (including legal service providers), and immigration funders to expand support for immigrant youth and their families across California.