October 13, 2010 | | Leave a comment As online degree programs grow in popularity, the industry is beginning to see an increase in funding and overall success. This week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it will develop a $20 million grant foundation to improve web-based education programs across the country. The focus will begin with online colleges, but shift to K-12 programs next year. "Education is the biggest priority for our foundation here in the United States," Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, told PC Magazine. "We think it's the most important thing for the future of the country." When he stepped down from Microsoft in 2008, Gates said he would donate $3 billion to educational efforts over the next five years. In 2009, he specifically pointed to technology as a solution to the recession and instigator of economic growth. The grants the organization will issue, in partnership with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, will range between $250,000 and $750,000 each. Last week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also announced that it would be creating a $34.8 million program to increase community college graduation rates. Online degree programs give working professionals the flexibility they need to finish schooling and obtain a higher education. As online colleges become more mainstream, adults will have more options to further their careers.