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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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Researching and Awarding Excellence in Rural Community Colleges

Scaling
The Aspen Institute Inc|$2,624,131|5/2020 - 4/2023
The grant supports the Aspen Institute in researching and awarding the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and the development of a new suite of curricular resources to advance student success at rural community colleges.

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Research Capacity Building Initiative

Scaling
APIA Scholars|$500,000|5/2021 - 3/2023
This grant supports the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund in building the capacity of rural Pacific Island postsecondary institutions to analyze data and use collaborative research strategies to improve their policies and practices. The initiative will increase Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander student success by developing pathways that lead to workforce participation through partnerships and institutional innovation.

Facilitating Career Pathways for Low-Income Rural Students: Cooperative Extension as a Community Connector

Exploration
Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities|$389,100|12/2020 - 3/2023
This grant supports the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities in building, piloting and evaluating a Rural Workforce Engagement Model that engages Cooperative Extension professionals in identifying and addressing the needs of low-income workers and employers in rural communities.

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