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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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focus area page Structural

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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Ascendium's Approach

An investment priority to…

Engage diverse change agents in institutional transformation

Means we support…

  • Developing learner-centered, postsecondary leaders in numerous roles, from front line staff to institutional researchers to senior leadership and boards

Which will lead to…

  • Leadership development prioritizing learner success and institutional change
  • Institutions and systems better understanding financial impacts of learner success reforms

An investment priority to…

Support the adoption of institutional and system practices that set up learners for success

Means we support…

  • Amplifying knowledge sharing by supporting communities of practice
  • Investing in high-quality research to test emerging ideas
  • Scaling effective institutional practices that ensure learners complete degrees or credentials without excess credits
  • Expanding data infrastructure and information sharing between institutions and systems

Which will lead to…

  • Institutions adopting developmental education reforms at scale
  • Institutions ensuring more learners can enroll in and complete gateway courses in their first year
  • Institutions prioritizing course availability so learners can enroll in courses that they need, when they need them
  • Institutions providing strong advising for course selection, progress and intervention

An investment priority to…

Support the implementation of learner-centered policies at the institution, system and state levels

Means we support…

  • Aligning policies and practices to maximize the efficacy of learner success reforms

Which will lead to…

  • Institutions and systems ensuring that policies do not impede learner progress
  • Understanding the policy structures that lead to the greatest return on investment for learners

Grants to Remove Structural Barriers to Success

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, to expand the adoption of multiple measures assessment systems for student placement in math and English.

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.

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.

NACUBO Strategically Financing Structures to Remove Barriers

Exploration
National Association of College and University Business Officers|$2,999,100|9/2021 - 8/2024
This grant supports the National Association of College and University Business Officers in creating a network of postsecondary leaders equipped to transform their institutions through strategic finance. The project will produce frameworks, tools and models that will change how colleges analyze, prioritize and fund their initiatives committed to equitable student outcomes.

Advancing Equitable Outcomes through Leadership

Exploration
North Carolina State University|$1,803,200|6/2021 - 5/2024
This grant supports North Carolina State University’s Belk Center for Community College Leadership in capacity building for presidents, senior teams and trustees of the state’s 58 community colleges. Learner-centered leadership development is needed to address structural barriers to student success and implement solutions that will achieve equitable outcomes for learners from low-income backgrounds.

Governing Board Success Academy

Exploration
John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education|$2,078,900|10/2020 - 3/2024
This grant supports the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, in partnership with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, in providing professional development to governing boards on prioritizing equitable student success through practice, policy and budget oversight.

Data Fellows Program Pilot

Exploration
Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities|$670,834|11/2019 - 12/2023
This grant supports the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the Association for Institutional Research in piloting a Data Fellows program to improve data literacy on campus among faculty and staff. The program will foster increased use of student data to inform strategic, tactical and operational decisions, with the ultimate aim of improving student success outcomes.

Transformational Partnership Fund

Exploration
SeaChange Capital Partners Inc|$500,000|1/2021 - 12/2023
This grant supports SeaChange Capital Partners in developing and launching the Transformational Partnership Fund, a funding vehicle that will provide postsecondary institution leaders with opportunities to explore and form long-term strategic partnerships ranging from mergers and acquisitions to administrative shared services or consolidated programs.

Guided Pathways: “What and How To” Educational Series

Scaling
Teachers College, Columbia University|$1,812,945|9/2020 - 7/2023
This grant supports the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University in creating a suite of training materials designed for colleges that have not been well served by existing technical assistance providers in the guided pathways reform movement.

Community College Doctoral Program Redesign

Exploration
University of Maryland Global Campus|$825,825|6/2020 - 5/2023
This grant supports the University of Maryland Global Campus in developing a new doctoral program in community college leadership. The program curriculum will be comprehensive and innovative, designed in collaboration with influential community college stakeholders and thought leaders.
View All Ascendium Grants

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