Remove Structural Barriers to Success | Ascendium Education Group Skip to main content

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.

See Grants in This Focus Area
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.

Download The PDF
RemoveSys09202x

Ascendium's Approach

An investment priority to…

Engage diverse change agents in institutional transformation

Means we support…

  • Developing learner-centered, postsecondary leaders in numerous roles, from front line staff to institutional researchers to senior leadership and boards

Which will lead to…

  • Leadership development prioritizing learner success and institutional change
  • Institutions and systems better understanding financial impacts of learner success reforms

An investment priority to…

Support the adoption of institutional and system practices that set up learners for success

Means we support…

  • Amplifying knowledge sharing by supporting communities of practice
  • Investing in high-quality research to test emerging ideas
  • Scaling effective institutional practices that ensure learners complete degrees or credentials without excess credits
  • Expanding data infrastructure and information sharing between institutions and systems

Which will lead to…

  • Institutions adopting developmental education reforms at scale
  • Institutions ensuring more learners can enroll in and complete gateway courses in their first year
  • Institutions prioritizing course availability so learners can enroll in courses that they need, when they need them
  • Institutions providing strong advising for course selection, progress and intervention

An investment priority to…

Support the implementation of learner-centered policies at the institution, system and state levels

Means we support…

  • Aligning policies and practices to maximize the efficacy of learner success reforms

Which will lead to…

  • Institutions and systems ensuring that policies do not impede learner progress
  • Understanding the policy structures that lead to the greatest return on investment for learners

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Community College Doctoral Program Redesign

Exploration
University of Maryland Global Campus|$825,825|6/2020 - 5/2023
This grant supports the University of Maryland Global Campus in developing a new doctoral program in community college leadership. The program curriculum will be comprehensive and innovative, designed in collaboration with influential community college stakeholders and thought leaders.

On the Path to a Degree (OnPath)

Scaling
MDRC|$570,300|12/2020 - 12/2022
This grant supports MDRC in providing technical assistance to five institutions within a state community college system and five other minority-serving community colleges to assess and develop communications plans that will improve persistence and degree completion rates for students from low-income backgrounds.

Scaling Community College Baccalaureates in a Changing Landscape

Validation
New America Foundation|$300,000|12/2020 - 12/2022
This grant supports the New America Foundation in examining the role that community college baccalaureates play in meeting employer demand for degrees, as well as demand for affordable bachelors degrees for low-income and rural communities.

Codifying Career Pathways Initiative

Scaling
UNCF|$1,987,366|1/2020 - 12/2022
This grant supports UNCF in scaling up an initiative aimed at increasing student success outcomes at 8 to 12 Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The work will increase these institutions’ capacity to serve low-income students and students of color, increasing academic and economic equity for both groups and producing best practices to inform other under-resourced colleges serving low-income students or students of color.

Provosts’ Student Success Network

Exploration
American Association of State Colleges and Universities|$1,580,850|10/2019 - 9/2022
This grant supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in developing and delivering guided pathways training for Provosts at access-oriented four-year institutions. A Provosts’ Network for Student Success will create a professional network and set of curriculum equipping leaders to leverage their roles for institutional transformation.
View All Ascendium Grants

Subscribe and Stay Connected

Get Ascendium news right to your inbox, from grant announcements and project spotlights to where you can find our program staff in the field.

Newsletter Sign Up