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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.

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…

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Early Leading Indicators of Student Success

Exploration
Research Foundation of the City University of New York|$477,584|4/2017 - 8/2020
This grant supports the Research Foundation of the City University of New York Graduate Center in developing a set of standardized early leading indicators that predict long-term student and labor market outcomes.

Arizona State University Local: California

Exploration
AZ Board of Regents on behalf of Arizona State University|$1,500,000|5/2019 - 7/2020
This grant supports Arizona State University in testing the feasibility of a model to provide underserved 18-24 year-old Californians with a clear and affordable path to a bachelor’s degree by combining the scalability of an online learning environment with local supports.

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