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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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Our Three Investment Priorities

Grants to Remove Structural Barriers to Success

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cataloguing and Understanding the Origins and Intents of Administrative Holds

Exploration
Education Commission of the States|$75,000|1/2021 - 1/2022
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.

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 are 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.

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.

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.

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