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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.

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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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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

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.

Development and Validation of a Compelling Income Share Agreement Program

Exploration
Education Finance Institute|$50,000|1/2019 - 6/2020
This grant supports Education Finance Institute in designing and developing an income share agreement program that can best serve the broad needs of postsecondary students, including those attending four year institutions that focus on low income, first generation and disadvantaged populations and inter-generational mobility.

Informing Wisconsin Grant Policy

Exploration
The 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.

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.

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