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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

College Transition Collaborative Probation Toolkit

Stanford University |$66,111|7/2017 - 3/2019
This grant supports the College Transition Collaborative at Stanford University in developing a toolkit for revising academic probation notification letters in a way that destigmatizes the probation process and improves student academic and psychological outcomes.

Emergency Aid Administrator Handbook

Equal Measure|$176,000|7/2017 - 1/2019
This grant supports Equal Measure in developing resources to help colleges establish effective emergency aid award decision-making processes that integrate human judgements into program administration.

Accelerating Latino College Completion at Hispanic Serving Institutions

Excelencia in Education Inc|$750,000|8/2016 - 12/2018
This grant supports Excelencia in Education in accelerating the enrollment, retention, transfer and completion rates of Latino students attending Hispanic Serving Institutions.

Scaling Guided Pathways Reform in Ohio

Community College Research Center|$1,500,000|9/2016 - 10/2018
This grant supports the Community College Research Center in applying research and technical assistance to the on-going efforts by Ohio’s 23 two-year colleges to effectively and rapidly create guided pathways for students to postsecondary credentials and careers.

Completion Grant Replication Project

Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities|$250,500|8/2015 - 10/2018
This grant supports the replication of the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities completion grant project.

Multiple Measures Assessment

MDRC|$980,500|9/2016 - 9/2018
This grant supports MDRC in assisting Wisconsin and Minnesota colleges in the selection and implementation of state-specific multiple measures assessment systems to improve completion rates and reduce time and cost to degree.

The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning

University of Wisconsin-Madison|$3,207,555|9/2014 - 8/2018
This grant supports a network of 22 research universities to successfully bring Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning to full operation.

Wisconsin HOPE Lab

University of Wisconsin-Madison|$2,500,000|9/2013 - 8/2018
This grant supports the development of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, the nations first laboratory for translational research aimed at improving equitable outcomes in postsecondary education.
View All Ascendium Grants

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