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ECMC Foundation Launches Nationwide Initiative to Address Postsecondary Needs of Rural Learners

Grants and investments will aim to improve postsecondary completion and degree attainment for rural communities

January 30, 2024

LOS ANGELES—ECMC Foundation, a nationally focused foundation, today announced its new Rural Impact Initiative, which aims to support the transformation of postsecondary education in rural communities nationwide. In addition to a diverse portfolio of grants, the Foundation will use program-related investments to fund promising innovations to help meet the unique needs of rural students.

Roughly 46 million Americans live in what the federal government designates as rural areas: relatively sparsely settled communities with small populations that are relatively isolated from large cities. The “some college, no degree” population is overrepresented in rural areas, but little reliable data is available to provide additional context. Additionally, while rural residents tend to graduate high school at higher rates than their counterparts from denser areas, college completion poses pervasive challenges.

“College graduates contribute to their home communities by playing critical roles in workforce development, civic engagement and overall economic success, yet postsecondary education systems too often struggle to graduate learners from underserved communities,” said Dan Fisher, president and CEO of ECMC Group, the Foundation’s parent company. “The Rural Impact Initiative will support rural community colleges and universities to better leverage local partnerships, align programming and skill development and generate sector-bridging career opportunities that accelerate completion rates and allow graduates to secure great jobs within their home communities.”

“The Rural Impact Initiative builds on learnings from grants and program-related investments made over the span of several years and comprehensive research from the field," said Jacob Fraire, president of ECMC Foundation. “More than two million rural learners enroll in postsecondary education, annually, and we must prioritize programs and policies which address the conditions that inhibit their success.”

The Rural Impact Initiative will be led by Stephanie Sowl, PhD, ECMC Foundation program officer and a nationally recognized expert in the field. The Foundation will issue requests for proposal in 2024 and accept letters of inquiry on an ongoing basis. Grants and investments will align with a three-pronged strategy aimed at developing knowledge, building capacity of rural-serving institutions and supporting community-based organizations.

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