Ascendium launched the $10 million Maintain Momentum for Student Success Initiative in July 2020 to support postsecondary education membership organizations and networks as they grappled with financial challenges brought on by the COVID-19 health crisis. The initiative supports organizations whose members serve a large percentage of learners from low-income backgrounds.
Just past the one-year mark, we’re checking in with some early grant partners to see how they’re doing. Last month we wrote about the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. This month, we’re checking in with the University Innovation Alliance (UIA) and Achieving the Dream (ATD).
Growing Black student success
UIA is a national coalition of public research universities committed to increasing the number and diversity of college graduates in the United States. It works to broaden participation in higher education and implement proven programs that significantly improve graduation rates for students across the socioeconomic spectrum, particularly low-income students, first-generation students and students of color.
Maintain Momentum supported UIA’s ongoing Black Student Success Initiative (BSSI), a collaborative, exploratory effort begun last year to assess and reimagine how UIA members support Black students. The grant allowed UIA to engage Dr. Shaun Harper of the University of Southern California and Dr. Leonard Taylor of Auburn University as keynote speakers for BSSI convenings. Their research, frameworks and inspiration have informed the strategies and action plans campuses developed and submitted this summer.
Funding also covered the cost of UIA membership for North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. It’s the nation’s largest public Historically Black College and University and the largest producer of Black undergraduates in both engineering and agriculture, as well as Black master’s graduates in mathematics and statistics.
“Ascendium's support has enabled UIA to accelerate our collective progress at a critical time for low-income students and students of color,” said Dr. Bridget Burns, UIA’s executive director. “UIA institutions have already increased collective annual graduates of color by 73% and low-income graduates by 36% since 2013, and by launching the Black Student Success Initiative and increasing our university membership, we are deepening our focus on increasing equitable degree outcomes across the country.”
Keeping, deepening connections
ATD helps its more than 300 community and technical college members in 45 states ensure access to higher education and success for all students, particularly low-income students, students of color and other historically underrepresented student populations.
At ATD, the Maintain Momentum grant allowed 115 member institutions to sustain or deepen their engagement as network participants and get additional virtual coaching to address specific needs on their campuses. It allowed ATD to develop a teaching and learning seminar, based on ATD’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit, and to improve its virtual instruction technology, supporting the strong attendance at learning events.
Eligible member institutions used ATD’s enhanced support in varying ways. Prince George’s Community College in Maryland held immersive equity workshops, Lorain Community College in Ohio held virtual planning sessions for a new teaching center and the Hawaii Community College System offered a series of virtual workshops on student needs and support.
“Without the generous grant from Ascendium, Achieving the Dream community colleges serving our most vulnerable students would not have had the resources to continue and deepen their supports throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Monica Parrish Trent, ATD’s vice president of network engagement. “This has been all the more important as the pandemic has disproportionately affected racially and ethnically minoritized and lower-income students.”