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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

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.

Strong Start to Finish

Scaling
Education Commission of the States|$4,500,000|4/2017 - 12/2021
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.

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.

Cataloguing and Understanding the Origins and Intents of Administrative Holds

Exploration
Education Commission of the States|$75,000|1/2021 - 10/2021
This grant supports Education Commission of the States in exploring the origins of administrative holds and understanding the role state, postsecondary system and institutional policies have in authorizing the practice of levying administrative holds.

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.
View All Ascendium Grants

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