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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

Support Rural Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training

Our philanthropy elevates rural postsecondary education and workforce training, long absent from education reform efforts.

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How We See the Problem

Disparities in postsecondary success between rural students and their urban and suburban peers exist at every point in the pipeline, from enrollment to completion. These disparities contribute to a shortage of skilled, qualified workers, which affects the economic health of both families and entire communities.

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A Guide for Research on Rural Postsecondary Education

One of our investment priorities is to support research to better understand rural learners and postsecondary providers. As part of our work in this area, we partnered with Sova to convene a diverse group of researchers and organizations to develop a national rural postsecondary research agenda. This research agenda lays the groundwork for applied research collaborations that will generate knowledge to help practitioners and policymakers remove systemic barriers faced by rural learners, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.

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Building Evidence to Increase Rural Learner Success

Ascendium is committed to advancing evidence-based research that supports equitable improvements in postsecondary education and workforce outcomes for rural learners. Through this grant opportunity, we will invest in research that generates actionable knowledge, yields evidence-based insights and supports practitioners and policymakers in scaling effective approaches to removing systemic barriers uniquely faced by rural learners.

Our Three Investment Priorities

Grants to Support Rural Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training

Advancing Digital Skilling in Rural America

Exploration
Center on Rural Innovation Inc|$1,331,200|12/2022 - 12/2025
This grant supports the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) in building pathways to tech employment for learners from low-income backgrounds in rural communities. This investment will help six communities in CORI’s Rural Innovation Network to identify tech employment needs among local employers and design and implement tech training programs designed to meet the needs of rural learners and local employers.

Launching Civic Sector Apprenticeships in Rural Communities

Exploration
The Council of State Governments|$693,800|9/2022 - 8/2025
This grant supports the Council of State Governments (CSG) and Urban Institute in working with state and local governments and public sector employers in Maine and Idaho to implement apprenticeship programs targeted to learners from low-income backgrounds. New apprenticeships will provide paid training and onramps to good civic sector jobs that are currently experiencing a shortage of qualified workers in rural communities.

Bringing Value-Based Bachelor's Degrees to Rural Community College Students

Scaling
New America Foundation|$1,100,000|5/2022 - 5/2025
This grant supports New America Foundation in building capacity at community colleges to create high-quality, affordable and workforce-driven baccalaureate programs. Community college baccalaureate programs provide new or expanded access to in-demand sectors, particularly for underserved populations such as adult learners and learners from low-income backgrounds in rural areas.

Rural Research Support Partner

Exploration
American Institutes for Research in the Behavioral Sciences|$391,117|4/2022 - 2/2025
This grant supports American Institutes for Research in managing Ascendium’s multi-year research initiative to support action-oriented research aimed at addressing critical gaps in the evidence available to inform scaled and sustained improvements in the postsecondary and workforce outcomes of low-income learners in rural geographies.

Advancing the Economic Mobility of Rural Learners

Exploration
Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Foundation|$1,342,200|9/2022 - 2/2025
This grant supports the Association of Chambers of Commerce Executives Foundation in working with up to 12 rural chambers of commerce to learn how to bring local community partners together to provide rural learners and workers from low-income backgrounds with the training needed to access well-paying, high-demand jobs.

Changing Systems to Support Partnerships Between Rural Community Colleges and Industry Stakeholders

Exploration
National Skills Coalition|$600,000|12/2022 - 11/2024
This grant supports the National Skills Coalition in helping states implement policy and systems changes to create and/or strengthen partnerships between rural-based community colleges and industry. This effort will document how existing partnerships have impacted the postsecondary and workforce success of rural learners and provide targeted technical assistance and coaching to state agencies and workforce coalitions.

NCII Impact Fund - Rural Guided Pathways

Scaling
New Venture Fund|$3,392,450|10/2021 - 9/2024
This grant supports the NCII Impact Fund, a project of the New Venture Fund, in developing and delivering a regionalized approach to guided pathways focused on rural institutions. This three year support model would be a first-of-its-kind approach to guided pathways implementation that includes community colleges, as well as workforce, employer, K12 and university partners as core members of the implementation team.

Training Low-Income Workers for Remote Opportunities

Exploration
The Foundation for Maine's Community Colleges|$535,000|7/2021 - 6/2024
This grant supports The Foundation for Maine's Community Colleges in building and implementing a state-wide training program designed to prepare rural Maine residents for success in remote working roles. Over three years, the program will train 700+ learners and establish the Maine Advisory Council on Remote Working.

AA-to-BA Transfer Apprenticeship Pathway for Rural Talent

Exploration
Reach Institute for School Leadership|$600,000|11/2022 - 5/2024
This grant supports Reach University in building career pathways between rural community colleges and school districts in four states, providing rural learners from low-income backgrounds with job-embedded training that leads to a bachelor’s degree and employment in high-quality, high-demand jobs in the education sector.

Evaluating the HBCU Adult Learner Initiative

Validation
UNCF|$74,000|12/2021 - 12/2023
This grant supports UNCF in evaluating the Adult Learner Initiative, an initiative designed to help five Historically Black Colleges and Universities in North Carolina identify and eliminate barriers that prevent Black rural adult learners from low-income backgrounds from earning a degree or credential.

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