Ascendium gives West Virginia higher education efforts a $750K boost | News, Sports, Jobs

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and Community and Technical College System with Philanthropy West Virginia announced Thursday the state has received $750,000 to aid students and accelerate degree completion from the Ascendium Education Group.

The collaboration is part of the inaugural rural philanthropy grantees by Ascendium, which is among the most active postsecondary education philanthropies in the country.

The grant will aid rural students, first-generation students and students from low-income backgrounds, which is line with the West Virginia Climb initiative that seeks to make 60 percent of the state workforce with a postsecondary credential by 2030. The state is collaborating with Philanthropy West Virginia and member foundations and companies that are committed to meeting the state’s most urgent educational needs through collaborative grantmaking.

“For so many students, any number of hurdles can hinder their path to a degree. Through this philanthropic collaboration and the direct support it will provide, we’re clearing that path for students who are working hard to reach their dreams,” said Sarah Armstrong Tucker, interim chancellor of the commission and chancellor of the Community and Technical College System.

The project will include:

* A statewide open educational resources initiative encouraging faculty to adopt course materials available to students through the internet at no cost.

* An emergency grant program to offer financial assistance to students when unexpected expenses arise that might interfere with their ability to remain in school.

* A financial aid program that will turn private donations into grant awards to offset the cost of equipment or materials such as tools, stethoscopes and uniforms in high-cost programs for students with demonstrated financial need.

* Professional development to faculty and full-time advisers to improve helping students with specific needs.

* Direct work with select colleges and universities to improve student support services, including admissions, financial aid, registration and academic advising.

“This is an outstanding collaboration amongst philanthropy, business, nonprofits, government, higher education, and citizens to ensure our students’ educational completion,” said Paul D. Daugherty, president and CEO of Philanthropy West Virginia.

Philanthropy West Virginia’s Education Funders Affinity Group, comprised of more than 25 foundations and companies, will encourage more participants, more private donations and more public investment to enhance student success programs made possible by the Ascendium commitment.

“Having a group of funders coming together to support a single group of priorities is a model that not only can be replicated, but one that demonstrates lasting, long-term thinking for the state. This project would not be possible without the knowledge, relationships, and creativity of West Virginia’s philanthropic and educational leaders,” Danielle Vetter, senior program officer at Ascendium, said.

Initial planning is underway and grant activities will take place over nearly two years.

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