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Ascendium Issues Grants to Help Orgs Continue Their Ed Improvement Programs

Two organizations have received sizable grants to continue their education reform work in the midst of the challenges posted by COVID-19. Achieving the Dream and American Association of State Colleges and Universities received the funding from the philanthropy division of Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit loan guarantor that develops tools and services for promoting college completion.

These are the first two grants to be issued out of the $10 million "Maintain Momentum for Student Success Initiative." Both of the recipients are working on student success programs.

AASCU will use its $1.6 million grant to help its member institutions continue serving students with the greatest financial need. Selection criteria will focus assistance on schools with at least 40 percent Pell-eligible students, a high level of engagement with the association and cumulative total years of AASCU membership.

The grant will also go toward program support. In recent months the organization has converted several in-person leadership development academies and meetings to entirely virtual or hybrid programs.

Achieving the Dream will use its grant to help cover the cost of 2020-2021 coaching packages. ATD leads a network of 277 community colleges, building their capacity with the help of a corps of coaches in seven essential areas: leadership and vision, data and technology use, equity, teaching and learning, engagement and communication, strategy and planning, and policies and practices.

"Over the years, Ascendium and other funders have invested millions of dollars in postsecondary learner success reforms. Membership organizations and networks have been crucial partners in the reform movement," said Amy Kerwin, vice president of education philanthropy at Ascendium, in a statement. "The danger in this crisis is that the most vulnerable students will be the hardest hit. If student success reforms stall out because of COVID-19, those students will be impacted even more."

Ascendium said its support could help tens of thousands of college students whose institutions will be forced to make "painful choices about professional development and membership expenses for upcoming budgets." Organization officials said the timeframe for the initiatives "will be flexible to allow for the possibility that financial impacts will be greater in the next fiscal year."

In addition to the $10 million earmarked for supporting networks and membership organizations, Ascendium has also set up a $2 million emergency response fund for urgent needs. For example, one recent grant went to the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin, which is using the funds to develop, test and deliver training for college instructors of gateway mathematics courses to adapt their teaching for online delivery.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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