Open Campus will receive a significant investment from the American Journalism Project to build local support for higher education reporting and help expand its collaborative model to more places across the U.S.

The investment, which was announced today, will enable Open Campus to accelerate its mission of combining deep knowledge of higher education and workforce issues with local news partners’ deep understanding of the communities they serve. 

Open Campus now works with seven local news partners in six states, with a goal to expand to 25 locations by the end of 2024.

“We believe our collaborative model can help chart the future of impactful local journalism about critical public policy,” said Scott Smallwood, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Open Campus. “We’re thrilled that the AJP support will allow us to bring this model to more communities.” 

With the AJP grant, Open Campus will add positions on the revenue team and in operations to support the growing reporting network. 

AJP, a venture philanthropy organization committed to building a future for local news, announced grants to four additional national nonprofit news organizations working in local communities. They are: The Marshall Project, which focuses on the criminal justice system; Capital B, which reports on Black communities across the country; Chalkbeat, which covers issues in pre-K to 12 education; and ICT, formerly Indian Country Today. ICT is the recipient of a special six-month planning grant and covers Indigenous people and issues.

“To realize our vision of a country where every community has the information it needs will take investing in and testing promising new models, including these ambitious multilocal strategies.” Sarabeth Berman, CEO of AJP, said. “We are inspired by their leadership and approaches to bringing vital new resources into local news.”

This marks the first time AJP is providing funding to help national organizations build or expand local reporting networks, and brings its portfolio of grantees to 26 organizations and total investments made to nearly $25 million.

Smallwood and Sara Hebel co-founded Open Campus in 2019 after long careers at The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

“Reimagining and reinvigorating local news will take new ideas, models, and funding,” said Hebel, executive editor. “We’re excited to be part of this cohort of national news organizations that are trying to do just that.” 

Though colleges and universities play central roles in economies, communities, and individual lives, few local newsrooms have anyone dedicated to the beat. Open Campus is working to change that through its growing local network. 

In addition to AJP, Open Campus is supported by a number of major foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Arnold Ventures, Lumina Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and Ascendium Education Group. See the full list of funders.