Community College Research Initiatives

March 28, 2023

The UW’s Community College Research Initiatives receives $449,535 grant to increase rural educational equity

The University of Washington’s Community College Research Initiatives announced that it received a $449,535 grant from Ascendium Education Group for research to increase rural learner success. 

Community College Research Initiatives (CCRI) conducts research to facilitate the advancement of equity in higher education. Ascendium invests in research that helps to build a body of evidence about how to ensure rural learners from low-income backgrounds can achieve their postsecondary education and career goals. Ascendium expects this investment in CCRI’s research will catalyze action affecting policies and practices grounded in high-quality evidence and research

The CCRI project will address mentorship program gaps through a multisite, three-stage study of mentorship programs at public rural community colleges across the United States. Drawing upon institutional websites, in-depth interviews and student survey responses, this project will benefit both scholars and practitioners by producing a database of mentoring strategies at rural community colleges. 

“We at CCRI are excited for the opportunity to learn how rural two-year institutions across the country are supporting students from low-income backgrounds with mentorship programs,” shared CCRI director, Lia Wetzstein, Ph.D. The CCRI data will advance the understanding of how the evidence-based solution of mentoring is being implemented at rural colleges while gauging the student experience with a primary focus on students from low-income backgrounds and racially minoritized students. 

“We are grateful to Ascendium Education Group for their support,” Wetzstein continued. Ascendium is interested in generating evidence about practices and programs that increase the completion of high-quality postsecondary education and training and successful transition to high-quality jobs. Through the CCRI analysis of the nationwide landscape of rural community college mentorship and mentorship experiences, this project will produce models of mentorship to specifically address the rural community college context and rural students’ experience. 

Last year CCRI was awarded a $1.2 million grant from Ascendium to work toward equity in STEM education for low-income learners across Washington state. CCRI, a program within Undergraduate Academic Affairs at the UW, is an influential contributor in community college and transfer partnership research identifying strategies that help students transfer to four-year institutions and complete their bachelor’s degrees. To learn more about CCRI, visit

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

For more information or to get involved, contact CCRI,