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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

New Grant Opportunity Available Now!
Now accepting action-oriented research projects for Building Evidence to Increase Rural Learner Success.
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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.

Ascendium's Approach

An investment priority to...

Better understand rural learners and postsecondary providers through high-quality research

Means we support...

  • Providing resources and opportunities for applied research collaboration between researchers, employers, funders and postsecondary education providers
  • Increasing rural postsecondary provider ability to gather, analyze and use data and data systems

Which will lead to...

  • Identifying, completing and disseminating applied research that supports rural learners through their postsecondary education experience and entry into the workforce
  • Generating new knowledge about the impact of diverse education and training delivery models administered through and with postsecondary education providers
  • Supporting data infrastructure for cross-system data sharing, tracking and reporting among postsecondary providers

An investment priority to...

Build the capacity of rural postsecondary providers to support learners through their postsecondary experience and entry to the workforce

Means we support...

  • Expanding job training models in high-demand fields for learners in rural communities
  • Scaling effective institutional practices and policies that support learners completing degrees or credentials in a timely manner
  • Supporting professional development for student-centered postsecondary leaders in various roles

Which will lead to...

  • Rural learners having the education and skills needed to transition to meaningful jobs in their communities and chosen careers
  • Increasing postsecondary education providers’ capacity to refine their operations to implement evidence-based practices that support academic success

An investment priority to...

Catalyze investment in and support for rural learners and providers through partnerships

Means we support...

  • Facilitating strong connections between postsecondary education providers and employers to offer high-quality postsecondary opportunities and pathways to employment
  • Communities of practice, including regional and national networks to solidify relationships between postsecondary education systems, key stakeholders and employers

Which will lead to...

  • Partnerships at the systems level that are based on postsecondary and career success to increase peer learning, network building, and best-practice sharing that highlights promising models among practitioners and partners

Grants to Support Rural Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training

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.

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.

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.

Evaluating Digital Pathways Transformation Cohort of Rural Community Colleges

Validation
Achieving the Dream Inc|$240,000|12/2020 - 12/2023
This grant supports Achieving the Dream in building a cohort of six rural community colleges going through large-scale institutional change to prepare and increase the number of low-income learners that graduate and enter the digital economy. This grant will support the evaluation of this cohort and will build a body of evidence outlining key success factors for supporting rural community colleges and learners.

Building Rural Community Learning Systems

Scaling
Columbus Learning Center Management Corporation|$750,000|9/2021 - 8/2023
This grant supports CivicLab, a project of Columbus Learning Center Management Corporation, in launching a cohort of six to eight rural community partnerships, building the capacity of rural community learning systems to improve learner-level outcomes along a talent development pathway.

Collective Impact Fund Advancing Good Jobs and Inclusive Economic and Talent Development

Exploration
America Achieves Inc|$500,000|8/2022 - 7/2023
This grant supports America Achieves in providing technical assistance and funder matchmaking to a cohort of regional coalitions as they advance entrepreneurial economic development, good jobs and economic mobility, particularly for rural areas and underrepresented groups.

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