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Streamline Key Learner Transitions

Our philanthropy supports institutions and systems as they work to facilitate seamless transitions between educational and career opportunities after high school.

A young woman training in a server room.

How We See the Problem

Leveraging workforce training, transferring between postsecondary providers and entering or re-entering the workforce are pivotal moments in a learner’s career or academic journey. Institutions and systems can implement policies and practices that inadvertently make these transitions difficult. For example, when curricula don’t align, or information systems are incapable of sharing data effectively, students risk losing credits, momentum and money. The jump from postsecondary education into the workforce also presents challenges, especially when institutions offer programming that does not align with the skills employers need.

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Our Three Investment Priorities

Grants to Streamline Key Learner Transitions

Non-Credit Mobility Academy

State Higher Education Executive Officers Association|$750,000|9/2023 - 8/2025
This grant supports the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association in supporting four to six states to strengthen policy and data infrastructure around non-credit postsecondary education. Participating states will work to ensure that learners have access to high-quality non-credit postsecondary training, and that clear pathways exist from that training into credit-bearing credentials in fields where those are required qualifications for high-demand jobs.

Scaling IT Support and Data Analytics Certificate Programming for Learners from Low-Income Backgrounds

Merit America|$10,000,000|9/2022 - 8/2025
This grant supports Merit America in its goal to help 20,000 learners move from low-wage jobs to in-demand technology careers over the next three years. This investment will enable Merit America to scale their operations and leverage up to $45 million in funding from the $100 million Google Career Certificates Fund.

Enhancing and Expanding the Transfer Explorer Tool

Ithaka Harbors Inc|$1,716,350|9/2022 - 8/2025
This grant supports Ithaka Harbors in enhancing and expanding the Transfer Explorer tool so that more transfer students have prior credits applied to a four-year degree, leading to reduced cost, reduced time-to-degree and a greater chance of completion.

Exploring TRIO's Capacity to Provide Career Development to Low-Income Students

Council for Opportunity in Education|$748,000|2/2023 - 5/2025
This grant supports the Pell Institute, the research arm of the Council for Opportunity in Education, in exploring the capacity for federally-funded TRIO programs to provide more robust career development and support services to the low-income college students they serve. This study is the first to explore opportunities to leverage TRIO programs in service of post-college career outcomes.

Establishing a Data Use Challenge to Inform Education & Workforce Transitions

Coleridge Initiative Inc|$1,347,166|10/2021 - 3/2025
This grant supports Coleridge Initiative in developing and launching a data use challenge and call for proposals to solicit data-driven ideas that inform education and workforce transitions. Ascendium will select individual data challenge projects to support from a set of proposals submitted by Coleridge Initiative during the grant period. The selected projects will link education and workforce data, provide states the relevant data analysis capacity to answer critical questions about student progression and inform evidence-based policies and practices that support learners from low-income backgrounds.

Building a National Apprenticeship Intermediary Infrastructure

Apprenticeships for America|$500,000|2/2023 - 1/2025
This grant supports Apprenticeships for America in creating the first national network of apprenticeship intermediaries in the United States and developing research to support the role of intermediaries with the goal of expanding apprenticeship opportunities nationwide.

Learning Partner for Future Sectoral Training Evidence-Building Initiative

MDRC|$334,500|2/2024 - 12/2024
This grant supports MDRC in partnering with Ascendium to design a grantmaking initiative that will build next-generation evidence on sectoral training programs. The initiative will identify the conditions and mechanisms needed to deliver and scale effective programs.

Examining Faculty Decision-Making in Course Equivalency and Transfer

MDRC|$1,122,000|12/2021 - 12/2024
This grant supports MDRC in assessing faculty behavior and motivations related to course equivalency decisions, a key bottleneck in the transfer process. In partnership with the National Association of System Heads and UC Berkeley, MDRC will conduct research and analysis of faculty's role in transfer articulation processes and explore system-level policy and practice considerations which may support more effective faculty engagement.

Connected Pathways for Tribal Colleges and Universities

Wakiya Foundation Inc|$750,000|10/2022 - 9/2024
This grant supports the Wakiya Foundation in piloting the development of new, career-aligned bachelor’s degree programs at three tribal colleges in Montana. In partnership with the tribal college leaders and Western Governors University (WGU), Wakiya Foundation will lead a process of using labor market data to identify in-demand jobs for which no postsecondary education programs currently exist for tribal learners, and to fill those gaps through offerings delivered jointly by the tribal colleges and WGU.

College Promise Careers Institute, Promise Regional Convenings, & Expanding Ecosystems for Promise Student Support

College Promise Campaign|$250,000|9/2023 - 8/2024
This grant supports the College Promise Campaign (CPC) in providing professional development and technical assistance to new and existing Promise programs by hosting regional workshops and its fourth annual College Promise Careers Institute. CPC will also expand work focused on developing career pathways for Promise students in high-growth labor market segments.
View All Ascendium Grants