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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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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.

Ascendium’s Approach

We support efforts identifying replicable changes to policies and practices that can dismantle unnecessary obstacles at the system and institutional levels.  We support efforts to engage diverse change agents in institutional transformation. We also support the adoption of institutional, systemwide, policies that set up learners for success.

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Outcomes We Seek

Our system-level funding fuels system-level outcomes we hope to achieve. By fostering leadership development across a spectrum of roles, we seek to prioritize student success and institutional change. We hope to help institutions and systems understand the financial impact of student success reforms, including adopting developmental education reform at scale to ensure learners are taking credit-bearing courses in their first year; ensuring more students enroll and complete gateway courses in their first year; prioritizing course availability so learners can enroll in courses they need when they need them; supporting entering learners’ end goals by helping them choose and enter a pathway; and helping institutions support learners through a strong advising process.

How we work

We fund initiatives that help remove barriers to student success. This means professional development for student-centered, postsecondary leaders in various roles, from front-line staff to institutional researchers to senior leadership and boards. It means the refinement of institutional policies and practices to better set learners up for success and funding of efforts to support a timely progression to a degree or credential. It also means expanding data infrastructure and information sharing between institutions and systems.

Grants to Remove Structural Barriers to Success

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 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.

Provosts’ Student Success Network

Exploration
American Association of State Colleges and Universities|$1,580,850|10/2019 - 6/2023
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.

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.

Data Fellows Program Pilot

Exploration
Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities|$670,834|11/2019 - 12/2022
This grant supports the Association of Public & 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.

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.

Implementing and Evaluating Caring Campus Faculty Engagement

Validation
Institute for Evidence-Based Change|$1,729,541|11/2019 - 8/2022
This grant supports the Institute for Evidence-Based Change in cultivating caring campus environments to increase student retention. The project seeks to implement the program with faculty at 14 community colleges and allow the Community College Research Center to evaluate impact on students, faculty, staff and the institutions overall.

Moving Mathematics Pathways to Normative Practice in Arkansas

Scaling
University of Texas at Austin|$1,474,981|9/2019 - 8/2022
This grant supports the Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin in ensuring that math pathways are offered to the vast majority of Arkansas college students. The Dana Center will provide technical assistance through a regional support network and pilot new tools and resources with Arkansas institutions.

Scaling the Student Success Center Network Coaching Program

Scaling
Jobs for the Future Inc|$1,298,100|6/2020 - 6/2022
This grant supports Jobs for the Future in building the capacity of four Student Success Centers to deploy coaches trained in advancing reforms at colleges in their states. The project provides capacity-building seed grants and strategic technical assistance to Centers in designing and implementing in-state coaching programs, while also providing training and ongoing professional development to the cadre of coaches.

Guided Pathways Implementation in Iowa’s Community Colleges

Scaling
Iowa Department of Education|$1,300,000|6/2019 - 12/2021
This grant supports the Iowa Department of Education in implementing a set of systemic guided pathways reforms that will improve student outcomes and reduce equity gaps.

Strong Start to Finish Implementation & Innovation Fund

Scaling
Education Commission of the States|$2,650,000|10/2019 - 12/2021
This grant supports Education Commission of the States (ECS) in amplifying the impact and reach of Strong Start to Finish (SSTF), a national developmental education initiative funded by Ascendium since 2016. The unique pooled funding approach makes it possible for SSTF to work at scale in six state systems; a supplemental investment would allow ECS to provide technical assistance to those state systems around emergent needs and advise other state systems eager to replicate their success.
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