Ascendium Education Group Launches a National Postsecondary Rural Research Agenda

MINNESOTA, February 16, 2021– Ascendium Education Group has formally launched a national postsecondary rural research agenda with project leadership and facilitation led by Sova

Ascendium’s elevation of rural postsecondary education and workforce training issues fill a critical gap in the field of higher education reform. This important project is part of a larger effort led by Ascendium to ensure greater attention and resources are directed to improving the outcomes of low-income, rural learners in service of healthier communities and a stronger, more prosperous nation. 

Kirstin Yeado, program officer said, “We know that disparities in postsecondary success between rural learners and their urban and suburban peers exist at every point in the pipeline, from enrollment to completion. However, very little research has focused explicitly on rural postsecondary education.”

The work to establish a national research agenda focused on rural postsecondary attainment and workforce development will be grounded in Ascendium’s core metrics of improving student persistence, timely degree completion/demonstrated competency, labor market advancement, and upward mobility.

A Working Group of researchers from a wide range of backgrounds, and an Advisory Group of national organizations committed to equitable outcomes for today’s learners, are being convened to build and refine the research agenda.

Danielle Vetter, senior program officer, said, “We are excited to partner with Sova and a talented group of researchers and practitioners to develop a research agenda that elevates the questions and research needed to better understand how to promote success for low-income, rural learners.”

The Working Group and Advisory Group kicked off in early February, and the research agenda is slated for release in late summer 2021. “We are honored to be a part of this truly important work to fill critical knowledge gaps,” said Dr. Alison Kadlec, founding partner at Sova. “Our goal is to facilitate the creation of a powerful rural research agenda capable of generating the knowledge base needed to lower barriers to equitable outcomes for rural learners.”

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

Sova is a mission-driven consulting firm focused on promoting equitable upward mobility for more through reform of higher education and workforce development. Sova’s work is based on the conviction that sustainable, scalable, high-quality innovation in higher education and workforce development must be designed and implemented with rigorous attention to the human dimensions of change. Sova’s core services are focused on adaptive change leadership, strategic communications and will-building, program strategy and design and implementation and support. For more information, visit

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