Remove Structural Barriers to Success | Ascendium Education Group Skip to main content

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.

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.

Download The PDF
RemoveSys09202x

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

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 - 4/2022
This grant supports 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.

Improving Student Success through Holistic Student Support Redesign

Scaling
Arkansas Community Colleges|$650,000|9/2018 - 1/2022
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.

Strong Start to Finish

Scaling
Education Commission of the States|$4,500,000|4/2017 - 12/2021
This grant supports a managed pool of funds that will be used to scale change at the state and institutional levels enabling more students from historically underrepresented groups to complete credit-bearing courses and enter a program of study by the end of their first year in college. The project, Strong Start to Finish, is co-funded with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Kresge Foundation and coordinated by Education Commission of the States.

Multiple Measures Assessment Phase II

Validation
MDRC|$1,484,745|2/2018 - 12/2021
This grant supports MDRC in evaluating whether the use of multiple measures assessment to determine student readiness for college-level math increases successful completion of gateway college math courses.

Guided Pathways Implementation in Iowa’s Community Colleges

Scaling
Iowa Department of Education|$1,300,000|6/2019 - 12/2021
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.

Strong Start to Finish Implementation & Innovation Fund

Scaling
Education Commission of the States|$2,650,000|10/2019 - 12/2021
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.

Caring Campus

Exploration
Institute for Evidence-Based Change|$1,000,000|1/2019 - 12/2021
This grant supports the Institute for Evidence-Based Change in cultivating caring campus environments to increase student retention. The project seeks to produce an adaptable framework for including campus staff in student success reform efforts.

Strengthening Completion Pathways and Ensuring Students are Learning

Exploration
Association of American Colleges & Universities|$866,939|1/2019 - 10/2021
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.

Cataloguing and Understanding the Origins and Intents of Administrative Holds

Exploration
Education Commission of the States|$75,000|1/2021 - 10/2021
This grant supports Education Commission of the States in exploring the origins of administrative holds and understanding the role state, postsecondary system and institutional policies have in authorizing the practice of levying administrative holds.

Math Initiative

Scaling
University of Wisconsin System|$2,300,000|1/2018 - 10/2021
This grant supports the University of Wisconsin System in helping its colleges increase completion of math gateway courses. The colleges will collaborate on improving developmental math offerings and establish new pathways that are aligned and developed concurrently with meta-majors.
View All Ascendium Grants

Subscribe and Stay Connected

Get Ascendium news right to your inbox, from grant announcements and project spotlights to where you can find our program staff in the field.

Newsletter Sign Up