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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.

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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

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.

Multiple Measures Assessment Phase II

Validation
MDRC|$1,484,745|2/2018 - 12/2021
This grant supports MDRC in evaluating whether the use of multiple measures assessment to determine student readiness for college-level math increases successful completion of gateway college math courses.

Bringing to Scale and Measuring the Effects of Guided Pathways Reforms by Ohio’s Community Colleges

Validation
Teachers College, Columbia University|$1,910,223|11/2018 - 10/2021
This grant supports Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University in studying and disseminating learnings from the implementation of guided pathways reforms at Ohio’s public two-year institutions.

Strengthening Completion Pathways and Ensuring Students are Learning

Exploration
Association of American Colleges & Universities|$866,939|1/2019 - 8/2021
This grant supports the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in creating resources and tools to assist institutions that are implementing guided pathways reforms at scale. AAC&U is working with 20 community colleges to field test a framework for ensuring student learning on a program pathway.

Strategic Finance and Student Completion Planning Grant

Exploration
National Association of College and University Business Officers|$1,158,288|5/2020 - 7/2021
This grant supports the National Association of College and University Business Officers in creating a community of practice among leading college and university chief financial officers. The resulting network will be poised to conduct research, implementation and dissemination of strategic finance models that drive equitable student success.

Completion Grants

Scaling
University Innovation Alliance|$1,999,998|8/2017 - 6/2021
This grant supports the University Innovation Alliance (UIA) in developing, piloting, and integrating retention programs at each of the 11 UIA member campuses. The funding assists students who are approaching graduation but face financial hurdles restricting their ability to enroll, persist and complete their postsecondary education.

Adult Learner 360 Academy: Hispanic Serving Institutions

Scaling
Council for Adult and Experiential Learning|$1,288,950|5/2018 - 4/2021
This grant supports the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning in developing a process for Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) to implement new policies and practices to drive better enrollment, persistence and completion among adult students. A cohort of 10 HSIs will develop and implement data-driven, adult-learner focused improvement plans and produce and disseminate case studies describing measurable changes.

Caring Campus

Exploration
Institute for Evidence-Based Change|$1,000,000|1/2019 - 4/2021
This grant supports the Institute for Evidence-Based Change in cultivating caring campus environments to increase student retention. The project seeks to produce an adaptable framework for including campus staff in student success reform efforts.

Strong Start to Finish

Scaling
Education Commission of the States|$4,500,000|4/2017 - 3/2021
This grant supports a managed pool of funds that will be used to scale change at the state and institutional levels enabling more students from historically underrepresented groups to complete credit-bearing courses and enter a program of study by the end of their first year in college. The project, Strong Start to Finish, is co-funded with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Kresge Foundation and coordinated by Education Commission of the States.

Improving Student Success through Holistic Student Support Redesign

Scaling
Arkansas Community Colleges|$650,000|9/2018 - 1/2021
This grant supports Arkansas Community Colleges in creating thoughtful and sustainable changes to the student advising systems so that students are better served academically and supported on their paths to completing a postsecondary credential.
View All Ascendium Grants

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