The Aurora Foundation grantmaking program

The Aurora Foundation began making grants in 2004. Since then, the foundation has allocated $650,000 in grants to 50 organizations that have served more than 4,200 women and girls.

From 2013–2014 the foundation conducted research on the issues confronting women in our area, intending to identify sweet spots for Aurora’s targeted funding. This research, published as the Aurora Report, propelled the board to select higher education as the most powerful lever to improve economic opportunity for women and girls in Greater Hartford.  Aurora’s goal is to empower more women to complete their college education, therefore enabling them to better their lives and those of their families.

Grant seekers: Learn about applying

Why college-completion programs?

The Aurora Report revealed that a woman who attains a Bachelor’s degree earns about $50,000 a year, while a woman with a high school diploma earns almost half as much. In Hartford County, only 22% of all women, 15% of African American women and 10% of Latinas get Bachelor’s degrees.

For many women in Greater Hartford – especially women of color and low-income or first-generation college students – reaching graduation requires academic and social supports that meet their distinct needs.

Aurora prides itself in not just funding effective programs, but also being a resource and partner. Our grantees receive guidance, from the application process through final reporting of outcomes and impact.

Together, by developing, funding and delivering strategic solutions for local women in college, we can make substantial individual, family and community impact.

What difference does a college degree make?

Getting into college is critical, but graduating makes the difference for a living wage.

The data shows a direct correlation between level of education and earning potential. In Hartford County, women of color and low income graduate with post-secondary degrees at significantly lower rates than their counterparts. The ramifications on family economy are tremendous, as females in Hartford County are more than twice as likely as males to be the single head of a family household.

Education is an economic and social justice issue. Lack of a post-secondary degree:

  • Locks women and their families into the cycle of poverty, as they lack the necessary qualifications for higher-salary jobs.
  • Exacerbates the wage gap, which widens for women working in lower-wage jobs.
  • Increases the likelihood of dependence on welfare and other supplemental services.



The estimated living wage for a single adult in Connecticut is $19.08 per hour, or just under $40,000 per year. For a family with two children, the rate may go as high as $40.48 per hour depending on the age of the children and number of working adults in the household.

What barriers exist to successfully completing a college degree?

Women of color and low income struggle to complete post-secondary education for a variety of systemic reasons, such as lack of college-readiness, difficulty with financial aid and student debt, transportation, and childcare.

Many must also navigate academic transfers and part-time status without adequate advising or mentoring support.

Female students also frequently face additional personal adversities.

  • An increasing number of women are identified as having learning disabilities and/or mental health needs, especially anxiety and depression.
  • For first-generation college women, family responsibilities and a changing sense of self can often disrupt learning.
  • Care for children, parents and extended family impact female students’ ability to go to class, finish assignments, participate in team projects assigned to a group of students, and join in school activities that help cement their identity as a student.

By investing in college-retention programs, we help women earn degrees that secure a living wage and significantly reduce their rate of dependency on welfare and other supplemental services. This effectively improves the quality of life for individuals and families, and the social and economic vitality of our communities.

We help to empower tomorrow’s leaders