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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

Remove Structural Barriers to Success

Our philanthropy focuses on reducing or eliminating institutional and systemic barriers for underrepresented postsecondary education learners so they can achieve their academic and career goals.

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focus area page Structural

How We See the Problem

Today’s learners often aren’t well served by the educational systems that were built years ago for more traditional students. Now students are often older, more diverse, working one or more jobs, raising families, and struggling to make ends meet.

Colleges and universities are complex, and often don’t have a student-centric approach to course offerings or availability, advising and other institutional policies. The problem shows in the equity gaps in completion rates: just 11% of low-income students graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Almost 6 times as many students — 58% overall — from higher-income households graduate.

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Ascendium's Approach

An investment priority to…

Create conditions for institutional and system readiness for learner success reforms

Means we support…

  • Identifying misaligned policies and practices that reduce the efficacy of learner success reforms
  • Developing learner-centered postsecondary leaders in roles across institutions and systems

Which will lead to…

  • Networks of institutions and systems achieving more equitable learner outcomes
  • Networks and systems better understanding the financial impacts of learner success reforms
  • Leadership development that contributes to equitable student success

An investment priority to…

Support the development and evaluation of promising approaches and interventions to increase completion rates and decrease time to degree

Means we support…

  • Seeding the exploration of innovative ideas
  • Conducting mixed methods evaluations to determine the efficacy and scalability of interventions

Which will lead to…

  • Creation of evidence supporting reforms that lead to more equitable learner outcomes
  • Stakeholders having a better understanding of what works to drive equitable learner outcomes

An investment priority to…

Support the widespread adoption of evidence-based institutional and system policies and practices that drive equitable student outcomes

Means we support…

  • Scaling effective practices that ensure leaners complete degrees or credentials without excess credits
  • Enhancing data infrastructure to maximize its use for decision making and information sharing

Which will lead to…

  • Institutions adopting developmental education reforms at scale
  • More learners enrolling in and completing gateway courses during their first year
  • Institutions prioritizing course availability and advising in a way that decreases time to degree and unnecessary credit accumulation

Grants to Remove Structural Barriers to Success

Strengthen and Scale Multiple Measures Assessment Implementation

Scaling
MDRC|$2,300,000|12/2020 - 12/2024
This grant supports MDRC, in partnership with the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University, to expand the adoption of multiple measures assessment systems for student placement in math and English.

Minnesota Math Pathways

Scaling
Minnesota State Colleges & Universities|$2,371,200|7/2021 - 12/2024
This grant supports Minnesota State Colleges & Universities in replacing pre-requisite remediation with co-requisite options and ensuring all students enter a mathematics pathway relevant to their program of study. These reforms are designed to facilitate transfer and reduce disparities in low-income and minoritized student completion outcomes.

Equity and Policy Alignment to Drive Student Graduation Rates and Close Attainment Gaps 

Exploration
Complete College America Inc|$1,750,000|9/2021 - 8/2024
This grant supports Complete College America in building capacity for networks of institutions to implement equity-centered completion policies and practices.

Curricular Analytics

Validation
Colorado State University|$1,997,600|9/2021 - 8/2024
This grant supports the Association for Undergraduate Education at Research Universities, hosted at Colorado State University in validating the relationship between curricular structure and equitable student outcomes. A network of national senior leaders will collaborate to develop and test strategies for using their institutional data to engage faculty in revising university curriculum.

NACUBO Strategically Financing Structures to Remove Barriers

Exploration
National Association of College and University Business Officers|$2,999,100|9/2021 - 8/2024
This grant supports the National Association of College and University Business Officers in creating a network of postsecondary leaders equipped to transform their institutions through strategic finance. The project will produce frameworks, tools and models that will change how colleges analyze, prioritize and fund their initiatives committed to equitable student outcomes.

Advancing Equitable Outcomes through Leadership

Exploration
North Carolina State University|$1,803,200|6/2021 - 5/2024
This grant supports North Carolina State University’s Belk Center for Community College Leadership in capacity building for presidents, senior teams and trustees of the state’s 58 community colleges. Learner-centered leadership development is needed to address structural barriers to student success and implement solutions that will achieve equitable outcomes for learners from low-income backgrounds.

Governing Board Success Academy

Exploration
John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education|$2,078,900|10/2020 - 3/2024
This grant supports the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, in partnership with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, in providing professional development to governing boards on prioritizing equitable student success through practice, policy and budget oversight.

Data Fellows Program Pilot

Exploration
Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities|$670,834|11/2019 - 12/2023
This grant supports the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the Association for Institutional Research in piloting a Data Fellows program to improve data literacy on campus among faculty and staff. The program will foster increased use of student data to inform strategic, tactical and operational decisions, with the ultimate aim of improving student success outcomes.

Transformational Partnership Fund

Exploration
SeaChange Capital Partners Inc|$500,000|1/2021 - 12/2023
This grant supports SeaChange Capital Partners in developing and launching the Transformational Partnership Fund, a funding vehicle that will provide postsecondary institution leaders with opportunities to explore and form long-term strategic partnerships ranging from mergers and acquisitions to administrative shared services or consolidated programs.

Guided Pathways: “What and How To” Educational Series

Scaling
Teachers College, Columbia University|$1,812,945|9/2020 - 7/2023
This grant supports the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University in creating a suite of training materials designed for colleges that have not been well served by existing technical assistance providers in the guided pathways reform movement.
View All Ascendium Grants

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