Ascendium has awarded the next round of grants from its $10 million Maintain Momentum for Student Success Initiative, which means over $5 million has been awarded to seven organizations so far. The initiative aims to sustain postsecondary education reform work and prevent equity gaps from widening amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maintain Momentum grantees are membership organizations and networks that were chosen because their members substantially serve learners from low-income backgrounds, the target population of Ascendium's philanthropy. Initiative funding allows network and membership organizations advancing reforms, such as data-informed decision-making, guided pathways reform and leadership development, to adapt their services.
Grantees in this current round include:
- University Innovation Alliance (UIA): The University Innovation Alliance is a national coalition of 11 public research universities committed to increasing the number and diversity of college graduates in the U.S. by broadening participation in higher education and implementing proven programs that significantly improve graduation rates for all students, regardless of socioeconomic background.
- Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS): WTCS encompasses 16 technical colleges and offers more than 500 programs awarding two-year associate degrees, one- and two-year technical diplomas and short-term technical diplomas and certificates. It also serves as a major provider of customized instruction and technical assistance for Wisconsin employers.
"As institutions focus on recovering from the pandemic, they risk losing momentum on student success reforms. Both the University Innovation Alliance and Wisconsin Technical College System are organizations that are continuing their efforts of reform and working to close equity gaps by using the Maintain Momentum funds to keep their institutional partners engaged,” said Vice President - Education Philanthropy Amy Kerwin.
Initiative funding from the first two rounds is already helping numerous organizations maintain and enhance their student success work, especially with an eye towards equity.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is offering discounts on membership to institutions potentially facing the most severe financial challenges, focusing on institutions where at least 40% of undergraduate students are Pell Grant eligible. The organization has also used part of their Maintain Momentum funding to assist members participating in their annual meeting in January, extending complimentary registration to individuals from member institutions. Discounts were also offered to nearly 1,000 individuals of member institutions interested in attending four thematic conferences planned for 2021.
“They were elated to know we could offer this to them because of the budget tightening many of them are having to face in light of COVID-19,” said Lorenzo Esters, vice president of advancement and member engagement at AAC&U. “Institutions are having to prioritize, and they value membership in AAC&U and the work we do to support their student success efforts.”
At the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), Maintain Momentum funds helped boost membership renewals from 77% to 91%, which was higher than the average renewal rate during a “normal” year.
“We made great use of the funds to assist members with renewals, particularly members who had indicated to NCAN that they hadn't planned to renew amid budget challenges,” said Tong Lee, NCAN’s database administrator. “Ninety members were able to renew through the Maintain Momentum grant, many of them community-based organizations and student support programs housed at universities.”
“We appreciate the fact that the grant is allowing members to leverage resources that are really timely,” added Zenia Henderson, director of members and partner engagement at NCAN.