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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

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2020 Education Philanthropy Report, Empowering Possibilities

Support Rural Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training

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

See Grants in This Focus Area
focus area page Rural

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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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
  • Investing in high quality research to inform the field
  • Increasing rural postsecondary provider ability to gather, analyze and use data and data systems

Which will lead to...

  • Identifying, completing, and disseminating applied research supporting rural learners
  • Understanding postsecondary access and attainment in the context of career and community outcomes
  • Exploring diverse education and training delivery models administered through and with postsecondary 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 from enrollment to workforce entry

Means we support...

  • Expanding job training models in high-demand fields for learners in rural communities
  • Postsecondary programs of study aligning with the geographic, economic, and cultural needs and assets of rural communities
  • Increasing student supports designed to help rural learners navigate postsecondary providers and workforce entry
  • Supporting professional development for student-centered postsecondary leaders in various roles—from front-line staff to institutional researchers to senior leadership and boards

Which will lead to...

  • Rural learners having the education and skills needed to transition to meaningful jobs in their communities and chosen careers
  • Increasing rural learners’ ability to navigate postsecondary enrollment, completion and workforce entry
  • Increasing postsecondary providers’ capacity and ability to implement best practice, data-based models to support academic success
  • Supporting postsecondary providers in refining their processes and operations to better support rural learners

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
  • Solidifying relationships between secondary systems, postsecondary providers and employers through regional and national networks
  • Supporting communities of practice tailored toward postsecondary providers, employers and learners

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

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

Exploration
Digital Promise Global|$249,200|12/2020 - 12/2021
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.

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.

College and Student Success in Rural Communities

Validation
University of Wisconsin-Madison|$191,765|6/2020 - 9/2021
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 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
Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund|$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.

Rural Postsecondary Education Project

Exploration
R Street Institute|$50,000|5/2019 - 3/2020
This grant supports R Street Institute in conducting a rural postsecondary education and workforce landscape scan, highlighting relevant data, funders and programmatic efforts.

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