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Deepening Our Impact

January 30, 2024

Dear ECMC Foundation Community,

At ECMC Foundation, we are optimistic about the future; in particular, the outlook for our work in service of students from underserved communities. Over the next year, our Foundation will continue to advance along a growth trajectory, which includes an acceleration of our grantmaking, the addition of new team members and an expansion of our geographic footprint. I look ahead with tremendous optimism and a resolve to deepen our impact amidst a changing postsecondary landscape that operates within an economic, social and political ecosystem that presents both challenges and opportunities. I invite our partners to identify the levers within our control in service of equitable student outcomes and the wellbeing of our nation. It is true that higher education has suffered significant setbacks, including the number of adults with some college credits but no credential surpassing 40 million, but we also see areas of improvement upon which we can build more equitable and navigable pathways for our students. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center recently released data showing that undergraduate enrollment inched upward, the first increase since the pandemic. Our colleagues at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association reported that funding for public education is at the highest level since the Great Recession. And dual enrollment is expanding rapidly—nearly one in five community college students also attends high school—providing a potentially transformative collegiate opportunity to students who might not otherwise consider going to college.

In addition to carefully tracking data produced by our partners in postsecondary education, ECMC Foundation is committed to sharing our learnings with the field. Throughout 2024, the Foundation will release key findings that emerge from the data we collect through our grants and program-related investments to facilitate systemic change as we identify and fund potential solutions to some of higher education’s most pervasive problems: basic needs insecurity; disparities by race, gender, parenting status and urbanicity; a transfer system in want of reform; and the need to build a more robust career and technical education ecosystem. And while we have much to contribute to the national conversation about these topics, we also maintain a posture of curiosity as we turn to our partners for their deep expertise and timely insights.

As our strategic evolution continues, the Foundation is broadening the scope of our initiatives and continuing to uplift the greatest opportunities for closing equity gaps in postsecondary completion. Research shows that the 46 million individuals living in rural communities across our nation continue to be underserved by our systems of higher education. Rural learners could strengthen their own social and economic trajectories and contribute more holistically to the health of their communities by earning a college credential. Yet, postsecondary success remains out of reach for many in this critical population. To address this confounding challenge, the Foundation is pleased to launch the Rural Impact Initiative. Dr. Stephanie Sowl, program officer, an accomplished expert whose dissertation focused on the impact of geographic and social spaces on college-going in U.S. rural communities, is leading this work.

In 2024, we have many reasons to be optimistic about the future of higher education. I am personally energized by the dedication and enthusiasm of my ECMC Foundation family and ECMC Group colleagues. We believe in the tremendous potential of the projects we fund, and we are seeing promising results from our investments thus far, which include more students served, exciting new research and meaningful institutional change. We admire the tremendous achievements of our grantees and investees and their determination to unlock invaluable insights about higher education reforms and scaling innovative solutions in service of students.


Jacob Fraire

President, ECMC Foundation

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