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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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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

Researching Place-based Learning Experiences' Impact on Rural Postsecondary Learners

Validation
University of Montana|$221,202|6/2020 - 5/2022
This grant supports the University of Montana in researching the impact of place-based learning at postsecondary institutions on student outcomes and achievement. Building on promising research in secondary systems, rural place-based learning focuses on integrating local and regional cultures, history, and resources into school programming in an effort to promote student success and engagement.

Defining What It Means to Be a Rural-Serving Postsecondary Institution

Validation
Appalachian State University|$428,000|12/2020 - 5/2022
This grant supports Appalachian State University and researchers from the Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges in utilizing and analyzing various data sources to develop a formal definition of operating as a “rural serving postsecondary institution.” The team will create a series of interactive data tools, corresponding documentation and a list of institutions that meet this definition.

Exploring Pathways to Sustainable Digital Employment in Rural Communities

Exploration
Center on Rural Innovation Inc|$403,100|12/2020 - 3/2022
This grant supports the Center on Rural Innovation in researching foundational questions related to building an inclusive tech workforce in rural America. Research will be synthesized into a public-facing report that will drive real impact on creating skilling pipelines, localizing outsourced tech jobs and leveraging the power of remote work in rural areas—ultimately setting the stage for low-income rural learners to achieve their academic and career goals in the fast-growing, high-paying fields of the digital economy.

Exploring the Role of Micro-credentials in Rural Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training Programs

Exploration
Digital Promise Global|$249,200|12/2020 - 2/2022
This grant supports Digital Promise Global in conducting a landscape scan of micro-credential use in rural postsecondary education and workforce training programs. The scan will aim to determine whether and to what extent micro-credentials are being used as a tool for economic recovery in rural postsecondary settings to support credential attainment and workforce entry for rural learners from low-income backgrounds, especially learners of color.

College and Student Success in Rural Communities

Validation
University of Wisconsin-Madison|$191,765|6/2020 - 12/2021
This grant supports the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Student Success Through Applied Research Lab in completing an analysis of demographic shifts in rural communities and college enrollment trends in rural places facing the greatest demographic shifts. This research will uncover new insights into rural college opportunity and access and will help education leaders and other stakeholders identify practical ways colleges can successfully navigate and respond to these increasing demographic challenges.

Rural Perspective and Opinions on Work, Education and Place

Validation
Education Commission of the States|$371,875|9/2020 - 9/2021
This grant supports Education Commission of the States in better understanding rural residents’ perceptions of the value of education, barriers to entry or completion, connections to work and general satisfaction with prior education and training experiences, leveraging insights for state policy audiences.

Rural Community College COVID Response and Guided Pathways Planning Grant

Exploration
National Center for Inquiry and Improvement |$432,500|9/2020 - 8/2021
This grant supports the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement in creating a Rural Community College Leader Learning Community to help leaders address the effects of COVID-19. This project will generate a set of "What Comes Next" briefs highlighting how rural institutions can overcome challenges and remain student-centered in the aftermath of COVID-19, and set the foundation for a subsequent creation of a guided pathways cohort model for rural institutions.

Developing a National Rural Postsecondary Research Agenda

Validation
Sova Solutions|$120,000|11/2020 - 8/2021
This grant supports Sova Solutions in facilitating the creation of a Rural Research Working Group to develop a national rural postsecondary education research agenda. The agenda will outline the key research questions for the field.

Supporting Rural Island-Based Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Students

Exploration
APIA Scholars|$144,400|5/2020 - 12/2020
This grant supports Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund in preparing for a comprehensive mixed-method study focused on rural Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students and the rural institutions serving them.

Improving Workforce Outcomes for Community College Students

Exploration
Social Finance|$180,000|2/2020 - 7/2020
This grant supports Social Finance in assessing strategies and approaches that workforce entities (including employers and workforce training providers) have used to establish successful partnerships with community colleges. The goals of this project are to identify effective strategies for developing employer partnerships that lead to long-term success for community college students, explore opportunities for sustainable and performance-based funding models for these partnerships and to highlight best practices and lessons for rural communities.

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