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Ascendium Invests $2.5 Million in Tribal Employment through Grant

Five TCUs to be supported in Building Pathways to Rural and Tribal Employment

January 18, 2024, Denver, Colo.—Ascendium Education Group, in partnership with the American Indian College Fund (the College Fund), has awarded a $2.5 million grant to five tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) to further their work in building meaningful career pathways. This four-year project will focus on implementing and assessing different academic progression and career readiness approaches to determine the best practices for increasing the number of employable American Indian and Alaska Native graduates.

The project will help identify gaps in student success from academic progression to career readiness and develop campus-specific solutions. Processes will be developed to collect and refine data to achieve this goal by analyzing every step of a student’s academic career from enrollment and retention to post-graduate employment.

The goal of the project will be to not only better steer students through their studies to employment but to guide the institutional direction of participating TCUs. Each TCU will review current student employment data to identify gaps in programming that support student pathways. The data collected will also provide insight into the employment needs of both rural and tribal communities, potential new or expanded partnerships with employers, and the impact of professional literacy on employment success.

“Our investment aligns with a strategic priority to support innovative programming that promotes upward mobility by connecting rural learners to high-quality jobs,” said Erika Foster, associate program officer at Ascendium. “We look forward to learning how these five TCUs will design and implement career development programming, while building their capacities to understand and monitor outcomes through data.”

College Fund Vice President of Student Success Services Tiffany Gusbeth said, “We are excited about the opportunity to leverage our work in the Strategic Enrollment Management space and to build it out from academics to career readiness to meet the employment needs of our tribal communities.”

About Ascendium— Ascendium Education Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to helping people reach the education and career goals that matter to them. Ascendium invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete postsecondary degrees, certificates and workforce training programs, with an emphasis on first-generation students, incarcerated adults, rural community members, students of color and veterans. Ascendium's work identifies, validates, and expands best practices to promote large-scale change at the institutional, system and state levels, with the intention of elevating opportunity for all. For more information, visit

About the American Indian College Fund — The American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 34 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $17.4 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian students in 2022-23. Since its founding in 1989 the College Fund has provided more than $319 million in scholarships, programs, community, and tribal college support. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit


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