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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

Scaling Statway and Quantway

WestEd|$1,500,000|7/2015 - 6/2018
This grants support efforts to bring Quantway and Statway, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's remedial math pathways, to scale across the nation.
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