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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

Remove Structural Barriers to Success

Our philanthropy focuses on reducing or eliminating barriers for underrepresented students in postsecondary education systems and institutions, so that 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. When we address the problem at its root, instead of one learner at a time, we hope to help institutions boost completion rates and shorten the time it takes learners to get credentialed—so that low-income learners have the same opportunities for academic and career 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 research staff to senior leadership and boards. It also means the refinement of institutional policies and practices to better set learners up for success and funding of efforts to support timely progression to their degree or credential.

Grants to Remove Structural Barriers to Success

Completion Grants

Scaling
University Innovation Alliance|$1,999,998|8/2017 - 12/2020
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.

Math Initiative

Scaling
University of Wisconsin System|$2,300,000|1/2018 - 12/2020
This grant supports the University of Wisconsin System in helping its colleges increase completion of math gateway courses. The colleges will collaborate on improving developmental math offerings and establish new pathways that are aligned and developed concurrently with meta-majors.

Opportunities in Building and Applying Evidence for Student Success

Scaling
University of Notre Dame|$98,396|12/2019 - 12/2020
This grant supports the Lab for Economic Opportunities at the University of Notre Dame in convening practitioners, researchers and policymakers to develop a shared understanding of the research on student advising and counseling. Six rigorously evaluated programs, including Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, will be examined to develop policy recommendations on how to build and apply this evidence base to improve student outcomes more widely.

Early Leading Indicators of Student Success

Exploration
Research Foundation of the City University of New York|$477,584|4/2017 - 8/2020
This grant supports the Research Foundation of the City University of New York Graduate Center in developing a set of standardized early leading indicators that predict long-term student and labor market outcomes.

Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment

Validation
MDRC|$3,295,000|7/2016 - 7/2020
This grant supports MDRC in evaluating the impact of the Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment (EASE) project at four two-year colleges in Ohio. EASE is an effort to improve community college persistence and completion by increasing the number of students who enroll in summer term through two types of intervention: targeted messaging and financial incentives.

Arizona State University Local: California

Exploration
AZ Board of Regents on behalf of Arizona State University|$1,500,000|5/2019 - 6/2020
This grant supports Arizona State University in testing the feasibility of a model to provide underserved 18-24 year-old Californians with a clear and affordable path to a bachelor’s degree by combining the scalability of an online learning environment with local supports.

Development and Validation of a Compelling Income Share Agreement Program

Exploration
Education Finance Institute|$50,000|1/2019 - 6/2020
This grant supports Education Finance Institute in designing and developing an income share agreement program that can best serve the broad needs of postsecondary students, including those attending four year institutions that focus on low income, first generation and disadvantaged populations and inter-generational mobility.

WTCS Student Success Center

Scaling
Jobs for the Future Inc|$1,350,000|3/2017 - 6/2020
This grant supports Jobs for the Future in creating a Wisconsin Student Success Center to bolster the Wisconsin Technical College System's scaling of student success initiatives across its campuses.

Ascendium-Sponsored Practitioner Fellowships

Scaling
Teachers College, Columbia University|$10,587|2/2020 - 4/2020
This grant supports the Community College Research Center at Teachers College and Achieving the Dream in hosting a focus group of college leaders at the Dream conference on Thursday, February 20. At this convening college leaders will share their institution's experience implementing guided pathways and reflect on what information and support are needed to help other colleges on this journey.

Informing Wisconsin Grant Policy

Exploration
RAND Corporation|$149,780|5/2018 - 3/2020
This grant supports RAND Corporation in conducting a study to estimate the effects of financial aid on various student subgroups in Wisconsin. The study will produce evidence on outcomes, overall effectiveness and allocative efficiency, with a focus on allocation of funds.
View All Ascendium Grants

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