Advancing Rural Communities through Collaboration!

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Philanthropy West Virginia’s cross-sector collaboration on education receives national investment

“Today proves that we do better when we work together as West Virginians, rural communities, and across all sectors to better student success,” shared Paul D. Daugherty, president & CEO of Philanthropy West Virginia during this morning’s major announcement.

Philanthropy West Virginia is advancing its mission to strengthen philanthropy in the Mountain State and Appalachian region by connecting local philanthropy and national partners to benefit our rural communities.

At today’s West Virginia’s Higher Education Policy Commission (Commission), Philanthropy West Virginia, the Commission, and Community and Technical College System (CTCS) announced that Ascendium Education Group – one of the most active postsecondary education philanthropies in the country – has awarded the state $750,000 to support student success and accelerate degree completion. The West Virginia collaboration is part of Ascendium’s inaugural rural philanthropy grantees.

“This announcement is the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by Philanthropy West Virginia and our partners working across various sectors to advance educational success of West Virginia’s students. Philanthropy West Virginia is honored, excited, and thankful to be part of Ascendium’s inaugural rural grantmaking awards with this nearly $1 million investment,” said Daugherty. “This is an outstanding collaboration amongst philanthropy, business, nonprofits, government, higher education, and citizens to ensure our students’ educational completion. As a national foundation, Ascendium is to be commended for meeting West Virginia leaders on the ground, learning about their rural education needs, and then making a collaborative investment to accelerate a program that is community focused.”

The grant and partnering with local philanthropy will eventually invest over $1 million to propel forward West Virginia’s Climb initiative. This program is to arm 60 percent of the state’s workforce with a postsecondary credential by 2030, the programming resulting from the Ascendium grant will provide tools and resources for rural students, first-generation students, and students from low-income backgrounds. To build on this investment, the state is collaborating with Philanthropy West Virginia and its member foundations and companies that are committed to meeting the state’s most urgent educational needs through collaborative grantmaking.

Key components of this work will include:

  • A statewide open educational resources (OER) initiative that encourages 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 certain 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 advisors and full-time advisors to improve advising efforts for students with specific needs; and,
  • Direct work with select colleges and universities to improve student support services, including admissions, financial aid, registration, and academic advising.

Through Philanthropy West Virginia’s Education Funders Affinity Group (EAG), which is comprised of more than 25 foundations and companies, partners will work to bring more allies to the table, secure additional private donations, and leverage existing public investments to maintain and grow the student success programs made possible by Ascendium’s foundational commitment.

“What makes this project truly innovative is the unique partnership between the state, Philanthropy West Virginia, and the network of education-focused funders,” said Danielle Vetter, Senior Program Officer at Ascendium. “Collaborative partnerships are often much easier talked about than executed upon. 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. Ascendium is honored to partner with these passionate leaders to support West Virginia learners.”

The grant activities are scheduled to take place over the course of nearly two years, with initial planning work currently underway.

“Especially as college students are grappling with new challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time to invest in their success,” said Sarah Armstrong Tucker, Interim Chancellor of the Commission and CTCS Chancellor. “For so many students, any number of hurdles can hinder their path to a degree. Through this philanthropic collaboration and the direct support will provide, we’re clearing that path for students who are working hard to reach their dreams. I thank Ascendium for this remarkable investment in our students, and Philanthropy West Virginia for their strong partnership now and in the future.”

Hinging on the success of the programs and additional support from the philanthropic and business communities, the Commission, CTCS and Philanthropy West Virginia’s EAG are planning for long-term student support efforts that increase degree completion and strengthen the state’s economic future.

For more information about Philanthropy West Virginia’s Education Funders Affinity Group, visit HERE and more information about Philanthropy WV visit HERE!  For more information, contact: or 304.517.1450