College of the Desert received its largest one-time grant in its 60+ year history, courtesy of MacKenzie Scott, philanthropist and ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Scott made an $18 million gift to College of the Desert on Tuesday. The donation was part of a $2.7 billion donation that Scott gifted to 286 organizations across the country.
In the past year, Scott has made numerous sizeable donations to organizations as her net worth increased along with her Amazon stocks.
In May 2019, shortly before her divorce to Bezos was final, Scott joined The Giving Pledge, a campaign created by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Melinda Gates that encourages extremely wealthy people to contribute a majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes.
In July 2020, she announced that she had given away $1.7 billion of her fortune to 116 organizations to “areas of need” including racial equity, LGBTQ+ equity, functional democracy and climate change. And in December, Scott announced that she donated another $4.2 billion to 384 organizations.
She released a statement on her latest large donation in a post on Medium:
"Because community-centered service is such a powerful catalyst and multiplier, we spent the first quarter of 2021 identifying and evaluating equity-oriented non-profit teams working in areas that have been neglected. The result was $2,739,000,000 in gifts to 286 high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked. Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved."
This most recent donation brings her givings to more than $8.5 billion worth of donations in less than a year.
“At College of the Desert we also recognize that higher education is a pathway to opportunity, and we have made a substantial investment in our EDGE/plEDGE program to support that opportunity for our community,” said Interim Superintendent/President Jeff Baker. “This amazing donation will allow us to support what we envision as a never-ending program that will allow future generations to pursue their dreams of a college education.”
EDGE/plEDGE provides local high school graduates with free tuition and fees for up to two years along with wrap around student support services to ensure students have the tools and resources needed to be successful at the College.
In the past, the EDGE/plEDGE program received financial support annually from the College of the Desert Alumni Association and College of the Desert Foundation, specifically the Richard Brooke Foundation. “We’ve always known that to make a lasting difference for our students and our community we must find a way to endow the program. And today we learned that we have received a donation that puts us well on our way to doing just that,” added President Baker.
Since 2017, EDGE/plEDGE has:
- Increased the number of first-time, full-time college students from 40 to 85 percent;
- Decreased the time it takes to complete a degree;
- Increased degree and certificate attainment by 62 percent; and
- Increased student transfer into four-year colleges by as much as 70 percent.
“The Board of Trustees and I are incredibly grateful to MacKenzie Scott and to all those that have supported us in our mission to make education accessible to everyone in our communities regardless of their background or economic status,” said Board Chair Aurora Wilson. “This historic gift will serve to increase access to education and training impacting the success of our students, and our communities for years to come.”
To learn more about the EDGE/plEDGE program, visit