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Rural Community College Excellence: A Guide to Delivering Strong Opportunity for Students and Communities

May 3, 2023

While excellent rural community colleges offer many examples—and lessons—on how to improve student success and strengthen communities, they tend to receive less attention than their urban and suburban counterparts from policymakers, industry leaders, the media, and researchers. One consequence: less information about how excellence in student outcomes can be achieved for students in similar contexts. For this reason, the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program (Aspen), supported by a grant from Ascendium, has developed this guide to share examples from highachieving rural colleges that, we hope, can help other community colleges deliver stronger and more equitable results for the students and communities they serve.The guide draws from several sources: data analyses of student outcomes, interviews with college leaders, virtual site visits to high-performing rural colleges, in-person site visits to rural colleges as part of the Aspen Prize process, and convenings of leaders of rural colleges. Guiding our research is Aspen's framework for student success: strong learning and completion while in college; success in transfer and employment after college; and equitable access and success for students of color and students from lower-income backgrounds.

When Community Colleges Offer a Bachelor’s Degree A Literature Review on Student Access and Outcomes

March 28, 2023

Community college bachelor's (CCB) programs have only existed for a few decades, yet now reach 25 states. Since 1989, both state policies allowing these programs and the number of CCB programs itself has grown steadily. A body of research on CCBs is growing in the wake of changing state policy and the growth of new programs. This literature review synthesizes research that addresses student access and outcomes in community college bachelor's programs. Key themes include graduates' racial and ethnic diversity, strong employment rates and wages for CCB graduates, and continued discussion regarding the place and purpose of CCBs in improving students' access to bachelor's degree programs and in facilitating bachelor's degree attainment.

LIGHTING THE PATH to Remove Systemic Barriers in Higher Education and Award Earned Postsecondary Credentials Through IHEP’s Degrees When Due Initiative

April 29, 2022

Higher education is the surest pathway to a better living and a better life. Yet, the goal of a valuable college credential goes unrealized for too many students, especially students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. Today, more than 36 million Americans have some college credit, but no awarded degree and, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the studies of even more students, deepening inequities that already are pervasive.Lighting the Path shares key findings from Degrees When Due, a nationwide completion initiative to reengage students and build institutional capacity. The report sets forth key findings on barriers to reenrollment, persistence, and completion; outlines strategies to best support returning students; and offers recommendations for policymakers at every level--institutional, state, and federal--to promote equitable degree completion.

Increasing Community College Graduation Rates with a Proven Model: Three-Year Results from the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) Ohio Demonstration

January 22, 2020

The nation's community colleges play a central role in producing a more educated workforce and promoting social mobility. They serve about 40 percent of all college students and, not surprisingly, they serve a disproportionate number of low-income and underrepresented students. But most students who enter these colleges do not graduate — only about a third of entering students earn a degree or certificate within six years. Among the many programs that have attempted to increase graduation rates, one program stands out. Developed by the City University of New York (CUNY), the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) is a comprehensive program that provides students with up to three years of financial and academic support and other support services. Along with those services and other forms of support comes an obligation to attend full time and participate in essential program services. An experimental evaluation of CUNY ASAP found that the program nearly doubled graduation rates after three years. This report presents findings through three years from a replication of the ASAP model at three community colleges in Ohio. Low-income students were randomly assigned either to a program group, who could participate in their colleges' new programs based closely on ASAP (called the Ohio Programs), or to a control group, who could receive the usual college services. Comparing the two groups' outcomes provides an estimate of the Ohio Programs' effects. 

A Broader View of Emergency Aid: Toward a More Holistic Approach to Helping Students Weather a Financial Crisis

February 1, 2019

Ascendium details how colleges have learned to probe for the underlying issues that contribute to financial emergencies, and are connecting students to community agencies as well as offering enhanced campus resources.While the report offers many lessons learned and insights, three key messages prevail:Colleges created an institutional culture where students feel safe asking for help.Colleges are more aware of students' holistic needs.Emergency aid is a vital retention tool.For many low-income students, an unforeseen car repair or medical bill can mean the end of their college hopes. While typically not large expenses, they can be enough to force these students into a tough choice: stay in college or pay the bill. Since its inception, Ascendium's Dash Emergency Grant Program has helped more than 100 two- and four-year colleges throughout the U.S. implement emergency grant programs on their own campuses.

2014-2015 Career Ready Internship Grant: Closing Report and Best Practices

April 1, 2016

Ascendium funded $2.1 million in Career Ready Internship grants to 16 Midwest community colleges to establish and administer paid internship programs to give low-income students real-world experience in their area of study.