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EDUCATION PHILANTHROPY DIVISION OF ASCENDIUM EDUCATION GROUP

Support Rural Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training

Our philanthropy elevates rural postsecondary education and workforce training, long absent from education reform efforts.

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How We See the Problem

Disparities in postsecondary success between rural students and their urban and suburban peers exist at every point in the pipeline, from enrollment to completion. These disparities contribute to a shortage of skilled, qualified workers, which affects the economic health of both families and entire communities.

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Ascendium's Approach

An investment priority to...

Better understand rural learners and postsecondary providers through high-quality research

Means we support...

  • Providing resources and opportunities for applied research collaboration between researchers, employers, funders and postsecondary education providers
  • Investing in high quality research to inform the field
  • Increasing rural postsecondary provider ability to gather, analyze and use data and data systems

Which will lead to...

  • Identifying, completing, and disseminating applied research supporting rural learners
  • Understanding postsecondary access and attainment in the context of career and community outcomes
  • Exploring diverse education and training delivery models administered through and with postsecondary providers
  • Supporting data infrastructure for cross-system data sharing, tracking and reporting among postsecondary providers

An investment priority to...

Build the capacity of rural postsecondary providers to support learners from enrollment to workforce entry

Means we support...

  • Expanding job training models in high-demand fields for learners in rural communities
  • Postsecondary programs of study aligning with the geographic, economic, and cultural needs and assets of rural communities
  • Increasing student supports designed to help rural learners navigate postsecondary providers and workforce entry
  • Supporting professional development for student-centered postsecondary leaders in various roles—from front-line staff to institutional researchers to senior leadership and boards

Which will lead to...

  • Rural learners having the education and skills needed to transition to meaningful jobs in their communities and chosen careers
  • Increasing rural learners’ ability to navigate postsecondary enrollment, completion and workforce entry
  • Increasing postsecondary providers’ capacity and ability to implement best practice, data-based models to support academic success
  • Supporting postsecondary providers in refining their processes and operations to better support rural learners

An investment priority to...

Catalyze investment in and support for rural learners and providers through partnerships

Means we support...

  • Facilitating strong connections between postsecondary education providers and employers to offer high-quality postsecondary opportunities and pathways to employment
  • Solidifying relationships between secondary systems, postsecondary providers and employers through regional and national networks
  • Supporting communities of practice tailored toward postsecondary providers, employers and learners

Which will lead to...

  • Partnerships at the systems level that are based on postsecondary and career success to increase peer learning, network building, and best-practice sharing that highlights promising models among practitioners and partners

Grants to Support Rural Postsecondary Education and Workforce Training

Catalyzing Rural Community Colleges Through a Design Challenge

Exploration
Education Design Lab|$1,996,925|4/2020 - 6/2023
This grant supports Education Design Lab in executing a three-year design challenge to develop and pilot new solutions to the question: “How might we improve the ability of rural community colleges to be a critical engine (or catalyst) of growth in their local communities?” Education Design Lab will partner with five rural community colleges to collaboratively structure, design, and evaluate new programs.

Building Pathways to Quality Jobs and Financial Security in Rural America

Scaling
Local Initiatives Support Corporation |$1,302,077|5/2020 - 5/2023
This grant supports 11 communities in the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s Rural Works initiative, a national network of workforce intermediaries committed to modernizing and redeveloping pathways from postsecondary education and training to employment.

Researching and Awarding Excellence in Rural Community Colleges

Scaling
Aspen Institute Inc|$2,624,131|5/2020 - 4/2023
The grant supports the Aspen Institute in researching and awarding the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and the development of a new suite of curricular resources to advance student success at rural community colleges.

Institutional Transformation in Puerto Rico: Lessons Learned in Resiliency

Validation
Excelencia in Education Inc|$399,700|10/2020 - 9/2022
This grant supports Excelencia in Education in identifying strategies that can support institutional resiliency and promote student success for rural, Latinx learners in the midst of natural disasters and crises. Excelencia will engage rural postsecondary institutions in Puerto Rico, which has experienced multiple natural disasters in recent years, and develop a report and accompanying case studies highlighting lessons learned in supporting access, retention and success for rural learners.

Launching West Virginia Climbs

Exploration
Philanthropy West Virginia|$750,000|6/2020 - 6/2022
This grant supports Philanthropy West Virginia’s efforts in building the infrastructure of West Virginia Climbs, a new public awareness and programming campaign aimed at increasing the state’s postsecondary educational attainment rate to at least 60 percent by 2030. The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and other partners will support the implementation activities needed to complete five activities targeted at supporting learners from low-income backgrounds.

Researching Place-based Learning Experiences' Impact on Rural Postsecondary Learners

Validation
University of Montana|$221,202|6/2020 - 5/2022
This grant supports the University of Montana in researching the impact of place-based learning at postsecondary institutions on student outcomes and achievement. Building on promising research in secondary systems, rural place-based learning focuses on integrating local and regional cultures, history, and resources into school programming in an effort to promote student success and engagement.

Rural Perspective and Opinions on Work, Education and Place

Validation
Education Commission of the States|$371,875|9/2020 - 9/2021
This grant supports Education Commission of the States in better understanding rural residents’ perceptions of the value of education, barriers to entry or completion, connections to work and general satisfaction with prior education and training experiences, leveraging insights for state policy audiences.

College and Student Success in Rural Communities

Validation
University of Wisconsin-Madison|$191,765|6/2020 - 9/2021
This grant supports the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Student Success Through Applied Research Lab in completing an analysis of demographic shifts in rural communities and college enrollment trends in rural places facing the greatest demographic shifts. This research will uncover new insights into rural college opportunity and access and will help education leaders and other stakeholders identify practical ways colleges can successfully navigate and respond to these increasing demographic challenges.

Rural Community College COVID Response and Guided Pathways Planning Grant

Exploration
National Center for Inquiry and Improvement |$432,500|9/2020 - 8/2021
This grant supports the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement in creating a Rural Community College Leader Learning Community to help leaders address the effects of COVID-19. This project will generate a set of "What Comes Next" briefs highlighting how rural institutions can overcome challenges and remain student-centered in the aftermath of COVID-19, and set the foundation for a subsequent creation of a guided pathways cohort model for rural institutions.

Supporting Rural Island-Based Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Students

Exploration
Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholars|$144,400|5/2020 - 10/2020
This grant supports Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholars in preparing for a comprehensive mixed-method study focused on rural Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students and the rural institutions serving them.

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