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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

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2020 Education Philanthropy Report, Empowering Possibilities

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.

See Grants in This Focus Area
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

Strengthening Completion Pathways and Ensuring Students are Learning

Exploration
Association of American Colleges & Universities|$866,939|1/2019 - 8/2021
This grant supports the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in creating resources and tools to assist institutions that are implementing guided pathways reforms at scale. AAC&U is working with 20 community colleges to field test a framework for ensuring student learning on a program pathway.

Strategic Finance and Student Completion Planning Grant

Exploration
National Association of College and University Business Officers|$1,158,288|5/2020 - 7/2021
This grant supports the National Association of College and University Business Officers in creating a community of practice among leading college and university chief financial officers. The resulting network will be poised to conduct research, implementation and dissemination of strategic finance models that drive equitable student success.

Applying the Evidence: Expanding Evidence-Based Strategies Across the Minnesota State System

Scaling
MDRC|$519,870|5/2019 - 6/2021
This grant supports MDRC and the Minnesota State System in promoting campus transformation by providing workshops and coaching on implementing multiple measures assessment, promoting summer enrollment, and understanding the impact of practices and policy around Satisfactory Academic Progress.

Completion Grants

Scaling
University Innovation Alliance|$1,999,998|8/2017 - 6/2021
This grant supports the University Innovation Alliance (UIA) in developing, piloting, and integrating retention programs at each of the 11 UIA member campuses. The funding assists students who are approaching graduation but face financial hurdles restricting their ability to enroll, persist and complete their postsecondary education.

Opportunities in Building and Applying Evidence for Student Success

Scaling
University of Notre Dame|$98,396|12/2019 - 6/2021
This grant supports the Lab for Economic Opportunities at the University of Notre Dame in convening practitioners, researchers and policymakers to develop a shared understanding of the research on student advising and counseling. Six rigorously evaluated programs, including Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, will be examined to develop policy recommendations on how to build and apply this evidence base to improve student outcomes more widely.

Adult Learner 360 Academy: Hispanic Serving Institutions

Scaling
Council for Adult and Experiential Learning|$1,288,950|5/2018 - 4/2021
This grant supports the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning in developing a process for Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) to implement new policies and practices to drive better enrollment, persistence and completion among adult students. A cohort of 10 HSIs will develop and implement data-driven, adult-learner focused improvement plans and produce and disseminate case studies describing measurable changes.

Improving Student Success through Holistic Student Support Redesign

Scaling
Arkansas Community Colleges|$650,000|9/2018 - 1/2021
This grant supports Arkansas Community Colleges in creating thoughtful and sustainable changes to the student advising systems so that students are better served academically and supported on their paths to completing a postsecondary credential.

Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment

Validation
MDRC|$3,295,000|7/2016 - 12/2020
This grant supports MDRC in evaluating the impact of the Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment (EASE) project at four two-year colleges in Ohio. EASE is an effort to improve community college persistence and completion by increasing the number of students who enroll in summer term through two types of intervention: targeted messaging and financial incentives.

WTCS Student Success Center

Scaling
Jobs for the Future Inc|$1,350,000|3/2017 - 9/2020
This grant supports Jobs for the Future in creating a Wisconsin Student Success Center to bolster the Wisconsin Technical College System's scaling of student success initiatives across its campuses.

Piloting an Income Share Agreement that Serves Low-Income Students

Exploration
MDRC|$500,000|9/2019 - 9/2020
This grant supports MDRC in assessing the operational feasibility of an Income Share Agreement (ISA) structured to lead to stronger outcomes for students from low-income backgrounds. Education Finance Institute will raise private capital to fund ISAs for up to 200 students attending five to seven pilot colleges.
View All Ascendium Grants

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