MADISON, Wis. -- Ascendium Education Group is announcing the first two grants of a $10 million initiative to allow postsecondary education networks and membership organizations to continue engaging their members in reform work amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 health crisis.
The Maintain Momentum for Student Success Initiative will allow networks and membership organizations leading the student success movement to offer discounted dues to their member colleges and universities. It will also allow them to adapt their services and offerings to remote and online delivery, even as they continue championing such reforms as data-informed decision-making, guided pathways reform and leadership development.
Community colleges and universities, which are members of these organizations, are facing potentially large revenue shortfalls and already are cutting budgets in anticipation. The goal is to allow them to keep their memberships, stay engaged and make progress implementing reforms.
The first two grant recipients will receive a total of $3.1 million. They are:
- Achieving the Dream (ATD), which works with its community college members to engage in bold, holistic, sustainable institutional change for student success. ATD’s innovative offerings include the Institutional Capacity Framework, Pathways Coaching and Holistic Student Supports to guide institutions on their reform journeys.
- The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), which works to expand student access, success and opportunity; promote world-class teaching and experiential learning tied to career advancement; and support applied research and service that advances economic development and quality of life in communities across the country.
These two recipients typify the kinds of organizations the Maintain Momentum initiative seeks to support. Their members substantially serve low-income students and students of color, which aligns with Ascendium’s overall mission. ATD and AASCU also advocate for and help members implement proven student success reforms.
“Over the years, Ascendium and other funders have invested millions of dollars in postsecondary learner success reforms. Membership organizations and networks have been crucial partners in the reform movement,” said Amy Kerwin, Ascendium’s vice president - education philanthropy, in announcing the initiative.
“The danger in this crisis is that the most vulnerable students will be the hardest hit,” Kerwin continued. “If student success reforms stall out because of COVID-19, those students will be impacted even more.”
By supporting membership organizations and networks, Ascendium hopes to impact potentially tens of thousands of college students whose institutions will be making painful choices about professional development and membership expenses for upcoming budgets. The initiative’s time frame is flexible to allow for the possibility that financial impacts will be greater in the next fiscal year.
In addition to the $10 million earmarked for supporting networks and membership organizations, Ascendium also created a separate $2 million COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for more urgent needs in the field. One example is a recent grant to the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin. The center is using its grant to develop, test and deliver training for college instructors of gateway mathematics courses to adapt their teaching for online delivery.
Ascendium strives to bring about systemic change through strategic investments in capacity building, data infrastructure, partnerships and networks, evidence building and policy change. Through its four grantmaking focus areas, Ascendium supports efforts that aim to remove structural barriers to student success, streamline key learner transitions, expand postsecondary education in prison, and support rural postsecondary education and workforce training.