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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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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.

Ascendium’s Approach

We support efforts identifying replicable changes to policies and practices that can dismantle unnecessary obstacles at the system and institutional levels.  We support efforts to engage diverse change agents in institutional transformation. We also support the adoption of institutional, systemwide, policies that set up learners for success.

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Outcomes We Seek

Our system-level funding fuels system-level outcomes we hope to achieve. By fostering leadership development across a spectrum of roles, we seek to prioritize student success and institutional change. We hope to help institutions and systems understand the financial impact of student success reforms, including adopting developmental education reform at scale to ensure learners are taking credit-bearing courses in their first year; ensuring more students enroll and complete gateway courses in their first year; prioritizing course availability so learners can enroll in courses they need when they need them; supporting entering learners’ end goals by helping them choose and enter a pathway; and helping institutions support learners through a strong advising process.

How we work

We fund initiatives that help remove barriers to student success. This means professional development for student-centered, postsecondary leaders in various roles, from front-line staff to institutional researchers to senior leadership and boards. It means the refinement of institutional policies and practices to better set learners up for success and funding of efforts to support a timely progression to a degree or credential. It also means expanding data infrastructure and information sharing between institutions and systems.

Grants to Remove Structural Barriers to Success

Informing Wisconsin Grant Policy

Exploration
RAND Corporation|$149,780|5/2018 - 3/2020
This grant supports RAND Corporation in conducting a study to estimate the effects of financial aid on various student subgroups in Wisconsin. The study will produce evidence on outcomes, overall effectiveness and allocative efficiency, with a focus on allocation of funds.

Ascendium‐Sponsored Practitioner Fellowship

Scaling
Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness|$17,250|3/2020 - 3/2020
This grant supports the attendance of up to ten postsecondary researchers at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE) 2020 Conference. SREE will collect and share fellows' reflections after the conference.

UIA Fellows 2.0

Scaling
University Innovation Alliance|$1,021,250|2/2018 - 1/2020
This grant supports the University Innovation Alliance (UIA) in funding a fellowship at each of the 11 UIA member campuses for 2018 (with matching funding from the campuses for 2019) and a newly created program director position for both years. The UIA Fellowship Program is designed to accelerate scaling of UIA initiatives and provide sustained capacity and project management support.

Workshop on Understanding Success and Failure of Students in Developmental Mathematics

Exploration
National Academy of Sciences|$344,247|8/2018 - 1/2020
This grant supports the National Academy of Sciences in convening a workshop of national experts to better understand the populations and needs of students who are not well-served by existing developmental education reforms. The March 2019 workshop seeks to define the challenges, resulting in a report setting forth a research agenda to help identify strategies for improvement.

Evaluation of Open Educational Resources Degree Initiative

Validation
Achieving the Dream Inc|$800,000|4/2016 - 12/2019
This grant supports Achieving the Dream (ATD) in engaging the research firm SRI to conduct an evaluation of ATD’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Degree Initiative. Working with the 20-30 colleges selected to create OER degrees, SRI will evaluate outcomes in three areas: academic impact on students; economic impact on institutions; and models, guidelines and best practices for successful OER Degree implementation.

2017-2019 College Completion Grant

Exploration
North Dakota State University|$200,000|1/2017 - 11/2019
This grant supports efforts at 14 two- and four-year colleges in Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin to identify students nearing completion but at-risk of dropping out and apply appropriate interventions to help them overcome their obstacles.

2017-2019 College Completion Grant

Exploration
Cardinal Stritch University|$200,000|1/2017 - 11/2019
This grant supports efforts at 14 two- and four-year colleges in Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin to identify students nearing completion but at-risk of dropping out and apply appropriate interventions to help them overcome their obstacles.

2017-2019 College Completion Grant

Exploration
Saint Paul College|$200,000|1/2017 - 11/2019
This grant supports efforts at 14 two- and four-year colleges in Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin to identify students nearing completion but at-risk of dropping out and apply appropriate interventions to help them overcome their obstacles.

2017-2019 College Completion Grant

Exploration
University of Arkansas-Fort Smith|$199,880|1/2017 - 11/2019
This grant supports efforts at 14 two- and four-year colleges in Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin to identify students nearing completion but at-risk of dropping out and apply appropriate interventions to help them overcome their obstacles.

2017-2019 College Completion Grant

Exploration
University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville|$198,968|1/2017 - 11/2019
This grant supports efforts at 14 two- and four-year colleges in Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin to identify students nearing completion but at-risk of dropping out and apply appropriate interventions to help them overcome their obstacles.

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