The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation came through on its promise to support higher education Dec. 9, donating an initial round of $69 million to programs that will boost the number of low-income students who earn a college degree.

The $69 million in grants that will support two-year colleges and their students are aimed at encouraging more 20-somethings to get a post-high school degree or certificate before starting a family.

The foundation is joining a small group of charitable organizations that target community colleges in particular, and it plans to spend up to a half-billion dollars over the next four years on...

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