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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

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2021 Education Philanthropy Report

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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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

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.

NCII Impact Fund - Rural Guided Pathways

Scaling
New Venture Fund|$3,342,450|10/2021 - 9/2024
This grant supports the NCII Impact Fund, a project of the New Venture Fund, in the 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.

Catalyzing Rural Community Colleges Through a Design Challenge

Exploration
Education Design Lab|$1,996,925|4/2020 - 6/2023
This grant supports Education Design Lab in executing a three-year design challenge to develop and pilot new solutions to the question: “How might we improve the ability of rural community colleges to be a critical engine (or catalyst) of growth in their local communities?” Education Design Lab will partner with five rural community colleges to collaboratively structure, design and evaluate new programs.

Leveraging Arkansas Community Colleges to Support Economic Development

Exploration
Local Initiatives Support Corporation |$240,000|12/2021 - 5/2023
This grant supports Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation in providing technical assistance to the Arkansas Association of Community Colleges to help their 22 institutions statewide serve as leaders for regional workforce development partnerships.

Building Pathways to Quality Jobs and Financial Security in Rural America

Scaling
Local Initiatives Support Corporation |$1,302,077|5/2020 - 5/2023
This grant supports 11 communities in the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s Rural Works initiative, a national network of workforce intermediaries committed to modernizing and redeveloping pathways from postsecondary education and training to employment.

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