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Building Evidence to Increase Rural Learner Success

September 7, 2022 3-minute read
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Now accepting applications for action-oriented research projects that address gaps in evidence for rural learner postsecondary education and workforce success.

Madison, Wis. – Through our education philanthropy, Ascendium supports efforts that can help the field better understand and support rural learners from low-income backgrounds and the postsecondary education and workforce training providers that serve them. We do this by investing in high-quality research; building the capacity of rural postsecondary education and workforce providers; and supporting partnerships that bolster postsecondary opportunities and pathways to employment for rural learners.

Although approximately 18% of the U.S. population lives in rural communities, and recent statistics suggest that percentage is growing in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis, national policy conversations and initiatives have not prioritized rural postsecondary education and workforce training participation, completion and strategies. The majority of national student success reforms have been piloted and tested in urban areas, where unique contexts like access to broadband internet and transportation are significantly different than those in rural areas.

We’re pleased to invite researchers to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) for a new grant opportunity that specifically centers rural learners from low-income backgrounds: Building Evidence to Increase Rural Learner Success. Those committed to generating insights about the strategies that can improve opportunity and outcomes for low-income learners in rural areas are encouraged to submit an LOI.

“Our investment in applied research will generate actionable knowledge to help postsecondary education leaders, policymakers, workforce providers and others shape and implement programs and policies that leverage the unique assets of rural communities and advance rural learner success,” said Vice President - Education Philanthropy Amy Kerwin.

We’ve partnered with American Institutes for Research to support the management of this grant opportunity. Grants will be awarded for projects up to three years in length and up to $500,000. Learn more about the Building Evidence to Increase Rural Learner Success initiative, including how to submit an LOI before the Oct. 7 deadline.

Ascendium looks to support a portfolio of research projects that generate evidence about the programs, policies and/or practices that increase the postsecondary education and workforce training success of rural learners from low-income backgrounds. We hope to hear from researchers in rural areas who are familiar with the opportunities and challenges rural learners face. We envision stakeholders across postsecondary education and workforce training sectors using the evidence generated to refine their current systems and processes or design new ones with rural learners in mind.

About Ascendium Education Group
Ascendium Education Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach the education and career goals that matter to them. Ascendium invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete postsecondary degrees, certificates and workforce training programs, with an emphasis on first-generation students, incarcerated adults, rural community members, students of color and veterans. Ascendium's work identifies, validates and expands best practices to promote large-scale change at the institutional, system and state levels, with the intention of elevating opportunity for all. For more information, visit