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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

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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…

Create conditions for institutional and system readiness for learner success reforms

Means we support…

  • Identifying misaligned policies and practices that reduce the efficacy of learner success reforms
  • Developing learner-centered postsecondary leaders in roles across institutions and systems

Which will lead to…

  • Networks of institutions and systems achieving more equitable learner outcomes
  • Networks and systems better understanding the financial impacts of learner success reforms
  • Leadership development that contributes to equitable student success

An investment priority to…

Support the development and evaluation of promising approaches and interventions to increase completion rates and decrease time to degree

Means we support…

  • Seeding the exploration of innovative ideas
  • Conducting mixed methods evaluations to determine the efficacy and scalability of interventions

Which will lead to…

  • Creation of evidence supporting reforms that lead to more equitable learner outcomes
  • Stakeholders having a better understanding of what works to drive equitable learner outcomes

An investment priority to…

Support the widespread adoption of evidence-based institutional and system policies and practices that drive equitable student outcomes

Means we support…

  • Scaling effective practices that ensure leaners complete degrees or credentials without excess credits
  • Enhancing data infrastructure to maximize its use for decision making and information sharing

Which will lead to…

  • Institutions adopting developmental education reforms at scale
  • More learners enrolling in and completing gateway courses during their first year
  • Institutions prioritizing course availability and advising in a way that decreases time to degree and unnecessary credit accumulation

Grants to Remove Structural Barriers to Success

Moving Mathematics Pathways to Normative Practice in Arkansas

Scaling
University of Texas at Austin|$1,474,981|9/2019 - 12/2022
This grant supports the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin in ensuring that math pathways are offered to the vast majority of Arkansas college students. The Dana Center will provide technical assistance through a regional support network and pilot new tools and resources with Arkansas institutions.

Codifying Career Pathways Initiative

Scaling
UNCF|$1,987,366|1/2020 - 12/2022
This grant supports UNCF in scaling up an initiative aimed at increasing student success outcomes at 8 to 12 Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The work will increase these institutions’ capacity to serve low-income students and students of color, increasing academic and economic equity for both groups and producing best practices to inform other under-resourced colleges serving low-income students or students of color.

On the Path to a Degree (OnPath)

Scaling
MDRC|$570,300|12/2020 - 12/2022
This grant supports MDRC in providing technical assistance to five institutions within a state community college system and five other minority-serving community colleges to assess and develop communications plans that will improve persistence and degree completion rates for students from low-income backgrounds.

Scaling Community College Baccalaureates in a Changing Landscape

Validation
New America Foundation|$300,000|12/2020 - 12/2022
This grant supports the New America Foundation in examining the role that community college baccalaureates play in meeting employer demand for degrees, as well as demand for affordable bachelors degrees for low-income and rural communities.

Capitalizing on Federal Momentum to Advance Postsecondary Student Success

Exploration
MDRC|$250,000|8/2021 - 11/2022
This grant supports a project by MDRC, SHEEO and The Education Trust in capitalizing on momentum created by several federal proposals to provide funding for college student success programs. The effort will equip states and colleges with guidance and technical assistance so that they prioritize the implementation of programs with the strongest evidence base.

Scaling the Student Success Center Network Coaching Program

Scaling
Jobs for the Future Inc|$1,298,100|6/2020 - 10/2022
This grant supports Jobs for the Future in building the capacity of four Student Success Centers to deploy coaches trained in advancing reforms at colleges in their states. The project provides capacity-building seed grants and strategic technical assistance to Centers in designing and implementing in-state coaching programs, while also providing training and ongoing professional development to the cadre of coaches.

Bringing to Scale and Measuring the Effects of Guided Pathways Reforms by Ohio’s Community Colleges

Validation
Teachers College, Columbia University|$1,910,223|11/2018 - 9/2022
This grant supports the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University in studying and disseminating learnings from the implementation of guided pathways reforms at Ohio’s public two-year institutions.

Building Capacity Across Illinois to Scale Corequisite Supports

Exploration
Partnership for College Completion|$255,000|9/2021 - 8/2022
This grant supports the Partnership for College Completion, in collaboration with the Illinois Community College Board, in building the capacity of Illinois colleges to adopt corequisite models of developmental education redesign. This project will create faculty-driven measures of quality that will inform statewide implementation of evidence-based reforms.

Strong Start to Finish Implementation & Innovation Fund

Scaling
Education Commission of the States|$2,900,000|10/2019 - 8/2022
This grant supports Education Commission of the States (ECS) in amplifying the impact and reach of Strong Start to Finish (SSTF), a national developmental education initiative funded by Ascendium since 2016. The unique pooled funding approach makes it possible for SSTF to work at scale in six state systems; a supplemental investment would allow ECS to provide technical assistance to those state systems around emergent needs and advise other state systems eager to replicate their success.

Guided Pathways Implementation in Iowa’s Community Colleges

Scaling
Iowa Department of Education|$1,300,000|6/2019 - 5/2022
This grant supports the Iowa Department of Education in implementing a set of systemic guided pathways reforms that will improve student outcomes and reduce equity gaps.
View All Ascendium Grants

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