MDRC Receives Major Grant from Ascendium Education Group for Projects on Postsecondary Education and Economic Mobility

MDRC is pleased to announce that it has received a $7.5-million grant from Ascendium Education Group to build and apply evidence aimed at advancing postsecondary success and economic mobility for students and workers with low incomes. This grant will support four projects that address critical challenges faced by students, workers, practitioners, and policymakers. It will also support MDRC to develop new projects that respond to emerging needs of the field and disseminate cross-cutting lessons and syntheses to practitioners, policymakers, funders, and other researchers.

The specific projects include:

Multiple Measures: Scaling and Developing Evidence for the Corequisite Context. Building on earlier work conducted by the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (a collaboration of MDRC and the Community College Research Center), this project will scale Multiple Measures Assessment (MMA) as a more effective alternative to standard placement tests for college students in at least one additional higher education system. It will also build new evidence about implementing MMA in a corequisite environment, in which students enroll directly into college-level courses while receiving academic support alongside their regular classes.

Testing Comprehensive Supports in New Contexts. MDRC will conduct an impact, implementation, and cost study of the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education’s multifaceted support program, Montana 10. Montana designed the program to provide students with comprehensive support to simultaneously address multiple barriers to academic success, with a specific goal of reducing equity gaps between the state’s white and Native students, and between urban and rural students. The study will test comprehensive supports in new contexts and for new student populations, ranging from four-year flagship institutions to small rural community colleges and including two-year and four-year degree-seekers, first-generation college-goers, and a sizable Native American student population.

OnPath: Student-Centered Solutions to Declining College Enrollment. Far too many students do not persist in college long enough to earn their degrees. OnPath seeks to help students and colleges by supporting efforts to sustain student enrollment. In the first phase of OnPath, colleges developed solutions that address three main target areas: Class Registration, Financial Aid, and Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Appeals. In this project, MDRC will build on this work, as well as other prior research, and partner with participating colleges to design a multi-touchpoint intervention to help colleges to better address student needs.

MDRC’s Economic Mobility Lab. The nonprofit workforce training sector plays an important role in training workers for jobs that can support economic mobility. This grant will launch MDRC’s Economic Mobility Lab, in which interdisciplinary MDRC teams will work with a cohort of workforce providers to provide customized, intensive technical assistance to improve labor market success and mobility for learners and workers. The Economic Mobility Lab approach will build in cross-organizational learning, identifying cross-cutting lessons for the field and incorporating the critical perspectives of participants and communities served by the workforce providers.

“We are thrilled to receive this generous and unique grant from our longtime supporter, Ascendium Education Group,” said MDRC President Virginia Knox. “With Ascendium’s help, we will be able to advance these important projects, continue to develop new work that responds to questions being asked by practitioners and policymakers, and share what we’re learning across the critically important fields of postsecondary education and workforce development.”