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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

Remove Structural Barriers to Success

Our philanthropy focuses on reducing or eliminating institutional and systemic barriers for underrepresented postsecondary education learners so they can achieve their academic and career goals.

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How We See the Problem

Today’s learners often aren’t well served by the educational systems that were built years ago for more traditional students. Now students are often older, more diverse, working one or more jobs, raising families, and struggling to make ends meet.

Colleges and universities are complex, and often don’t have a student-centric approach to course offerings or availability, advising and other institutional policies. The problem shows in the equity gaps in completion rates: just 11% of low-income students graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Almost 6 times as many students — 58% overall — from higher-income households graduate.

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Our Three Investment Priorities

Grants to Remove Structural Barriers to Success

Strong Start to Finish - Accelerating Scaled Implementation

Scaling
Education Commission of the States|$2,500,000|9/2022 - 12/2026
This grant supports Education Commission of the States, through its Strong Start to Finish initiative, in accelerating the implementation of complex developmental education reforms at scale in up to eight state higher education systems.

Accelerating Just Transformation in the Foundational Postsecondary Experience

Exploration
John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education|$1,000,000|12/2022 - 6/2026
This grant supports the Gardner Institute, through the Accelerating Just Transformation in the Foundational Postsecondary Experience (TFPE) project, in working with cohorts of colleges with growing populations of first-generation, low-income and minoritized student populations to redesign the first-year student experience. TFPE will enable institutions to redesign practices that impede success for learners from low-income backgrounds and identify and act on targeted reforms to promote equitable student success.

Scaling the Leadership Academy for Student Success

Scaling
New Venture Fund|$1,062,925|12/2022 - 12/2025
This grant supports National Center for Inquiry and Improvement (NCII) in replicating the Ohio Leadership Academy for Student Success in two to three additional states. NCII will work with selected states to implement key elements of the Ohio model for providing targeted training for leaders within community colleges, thereby building state- and system-level capacity to implement wide-scale strategies for student success.

Modern Math Pathways for All Students

Scaling
University of Texas at Austin|$1,100,000|5/2022 - 4/2025
This grant supports the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin in building capacity for large-scale mathematics reform in states that have not yet undertaken significant transformation.

Strengthen and Scale Multiple Measures Assessment Implementation

Scaling
MDRC|$2,300,000|12/2020 - 12/2024
This grant supports MDRC, in partnership with the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, in expanding the adoption of multiple measures assessment systems for student placement in math and English.

Paving the Way to Equitable, Adequate, and Effective Community College Funding

Validation
Teachers College, Columbia University|$742,100|12/2021 - 12/2024
This grant supports the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University in executing a project designed to understand the costs of implementing evidence-based practices to support postsecondary success for learners from low-income backgrounds and students of color at two-year institutions. CCRC will use insights from the study to provide guidance to institutional leaders and state and system policymakers for advancing adequate and equitable funding strategies.

Minnesota Math Pathways

Scaling
Minnesota State Colleges & Universities|$2,371,200|7/2021 - 12/2024
This grant supports Minnesota State Colleges & Universities in replacing pre-requisite remediation with co-requisite options and ensuring all students enter a mathematics pathway relevant to their program of study. These reforms are designed to facilitate transfer and reduce disparities in low-income and minoritized student completion outcomes.

Academic Planning Tool Pilot

Exploration
Partnership for Education Advancement|$1,417,900|12/2021 - 12/2024
This grant supports Partnership for Education Advancement in bolstering college capacity to plan for, successfully implement and evaluate the use of academic planning technology to help students map a clear path to courses needed for degree completion. In addition to decreasing excess credit accumulation and speeding time to degree for students, the project will help institutions calculate the return on their investment in this type of technology.

Curricular Analytics

Validation
Colorado State University|$1,997,600|9/2021 - 8/2024
This grant supports the Association for Undergraduate Education at Research Universities, hosted at Colorado State University, in validating the relationship between curricular structure and equitable student outcomes. A network of national senior leaders will collaborate to develop and test strategies for using their institutional data to engage faculty in revising university curriculum.

Equity and Policy Alignment to Drive Student Graduation Rates and Close Attainment Gaps 

Exploration
Complete College America Inc|$1,750,000|9/2021 - 8/2024
This grant supports Complete College America in building capacity for networks of institutions to implement equity-centered completion policies and practices.

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